The initiative which provides 2,700 hours of “street presence” annually is delivered by Antrim and Newtownabbey Policing and Community Safety Partnership.
It is proposed to extend the scheme which has been operating in the borough since 2010 by having two pairs of Community Safety Wardens deployed on four nights, including weekends, at a cost of £105k, instead of a single patrol.
Councillors have agreed to provide £20,000 with the sum of £60,000 allocated by the PCSP which has applied to the Housing Executive’s Community Safety fund for a further £25k.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Community Planning Committee on Monday evening, Threemilewater DUP Councillor Mark Cooper, a PCSP member, highlighted the “valuable service” of the wardens whom he praised for their ability to “de-escalate” issues.
Airport Alderman Paul Michael said that any opportunity to extend the scheme would be welcome especially at weekends, following reports of “large numbers” of youths travelling into the borough from outside the area.
Committee Chair Councillor Julie Gilmour told the meeting that Translink briefs the PCSP “quite substantially” on travel into the borough and “works closely” with PSNI neighbourhood teams.
Macedon Sinn Fein Councillor Taylor McGrann asked if the wardens are deployed in particular areas or if patrols are “need” based.
Ursula Fay, director of Community Planning, explained that patrols are targeted at “areas of greaest need”.
She went on to say that doubling patrols would cover the borough in areas where there are “particular issues” and “flexed based on greatest need” which she said is assessed based on information received through the council’s statutory partners and PSNI.
She added that written reports are provided to the local authority on a Monday morning after each patrol.
Ballyclare Independent Councillor Michael Stewart said it would be useful to know how long patrols spend in each electoral area.
Antrim DUP Councillor Paul Dunlop commented: “This is two guys in a van. They are not a police force. They can’t be everywhere at once.”
“Influx into our borough is something we have had evidenced on a number of occasions. We have to work alongside the PSNI. As far as hotspots go, I am sure every member has received a message on a Friday or Saturday night to say that something is happening. That is how we identify hotspots.
“The safety wardens will always engage but on a Saturday night when there is any number of hotspots around this borough,, they simply don’t have the manpower to be everywhere. They are in Ballyclare regularly.”
However Cllr Stewart said he did not believe there is “enough presence of security on the streets”
He continued: “If there are statistics, that would be really good. We need to communicate the message that we are not just sitting on our hands in council watching this stuff happen.
“It would be good to have the information and share it. Kids are running wild around the town.” Read more
Meanwhile, the PSNI has reported a decrease in anti-social behaviour in Antrim and Newtownabbey during a recent 12-month period. Read more
There were 3,425 incidents reported to police between May 2021 and April 2022 compared to 5,202, between May 2020 and April 2021.
Separately, the committee was told that vulnerable individuals in the borough can be provided with support through a Multi-Agency Support Hub (MASH) that was established in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough in July 2017. Read more
The Support Hub aims to provide the right support at the right time via the most appropriate organisation with funding support from the Department for Justice.
The Antrim and Newtownabbey MASH is led by the Council and includes representation from statutory organisations including: PCSP, PSNI, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, Housing Executive, Youth Justice Agency, Northern Health and Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Northern Ireland Probation Board and Department for Communities.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter