ELEVEN men have been arrested in the latest development of the ongoing feud between rival drugs groups across Ards and North Down, which has marked a ‘drain on police’ resources to the tune of almost £500,000.
Detectives investigating reports of criminal activity in the Weaver’s Grange area of Newtownards on Thursday, April 6, detained the group on a variety of charges including unlawful assembly and affray.
The men arrested range in age from 24 to 56 and are part of the ongoing probe into the feud which began in March.
Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the impact of this criminal behaviour is being felt both in the local community and has wider impact on the PSNI service.
“The total cost of the policing operation relating to the North Down feud is £476,000,” he said this week.
“This drain on our resources is coming at a time of stark budgetary pressures with fewer officers. Our key priority is to keep our communities in Newtownards and across Northern Ireland safe” he said.
“The Police Service of Northern Ireland does not tolerate any type of vigilante activity and we would caution any individual or group against taking the law into their own hands,” continued Mr Singleton.
“These arrests are a powerful reminder that police are responsible for law enforcement in Northern Ireland – we are here to protect local people and we are proud to serve them.
“Those who engage in vigilante behaviour, whether claiming to represent an illegal paramilitary organisation or not, are usually only interested in asserting their own control and influence over local communities, with no regard for wider community concerns,” he said.
The police chief said he wanted to ‘reiterate our message that we urge residents of Newtownards to remain vigilant and to continue reporting any concerns to us so we can take the appropriate action’.
“We will maintain a presence in the area through high visibility patrols by our Neighbourhood and Local Policing Teams, along with the specialist expertise of our Armed Response units and Tactical Support Group officers.
He added the PSNI’s gratitude of the public’s support.
“We are grateful to the members of the public who have reported a number of incidents to police recently. Community support is invaluable to the robust policing operation which we have implemented to conduct our investigations and deter further criminality,” he added.
Strangford MP, Jim Shannon, who recently met with senior local police commanders to discuss the feud, has again urged anyone with information to come forward.
“ The rise of this activity will only be halted when we recognise as a community that it has no place in Ards and the surrounding area and we work together to ensure that those issuing threats, vandalising property and disrespecting the everyday person who loves this town and wants to see it moving forward are held to account in the courts for their behaviour,” said Mr Shannon.
“The PSNI are doing a good job in what they can do but they need the buy in of the community to prevent a further escalation and the ultimate worry that someone will be injured or worse.”
During the meeting Mr Shannon raised recent vandalism and graffiti being daubed on the walls of a local church building which he said has ‘annoyed and upset the decent people of this area’