POLICE have promised to almost double the number of community officers assigned to Coalisland in order to tackle the scourge of illegal drugs currently blighting the town.
The increased police presence, which will result in more patrols, higher visibility, and a local response to calls from the public, is part of a new strategy being advanced by Chief Inspector Alwyn Barton.
From the end of May, Coalisland’s Neighbourhood Policing Team will increase from 6 to 10 officers.
“We understand and are very aware that Coalisland is a top priority when it comes to policing in the local district”, said Chief Inspector Barton.
“We have a clear onus to listen to the people of Coalisland and react to their concerns. To this end there will be a significant change by the end of this month in terms of community policing.
“We will be reviewing shift coverage to ensure that police are on the ground in the town every day of the week, and that there will be 24/7 coverage by police within the district.
“The community police officers will have their finger on the pulse of what is going on in Coalisland, and will be the first point of contact for the public.”
The police chief also promised to help fund and organise a scheme to bring CCTV cameras to the town. However, he stressed that an independent security company would monitor the footage.
“From the meeting on Thursday night there was a resounding ‘yes’ to the idea of CCTV coverage to help tackle the problems of illegal drug selling.
“To allay any public concerns, I would stress that the cameras will be monitored independently, and there will be a careful discussion around this.”
Inspector Barton revealed that on the day of the meeting, police in Dungannon had seized £1000 worth of heroin.
“The main illegal drugs available in the local district are cannabis, mephedrone, ecstasy and heroin”, he said.
“Although police have seized crystal meths in Northern Ireland, we have yet to find it in the local distrct.
“However, we are working on the assumption that it will be available at some time in the future.”
The inspector also announced plans to target license holders illegally selling alcohol to underage customers.
“We will be running a Test Purchasing by Minors in Licensed Premises scheme, in which we will warn license holders in advance.
“This is obviously a sensitive issue in that we are using minors to buy alcohol, however, the premises will have had fair warning.
“While there are many responsible license holders in the district, it is clear that teenagers are able to access alcohol from some source.”
Inspector Barton appealed for the community to engage with the police and provide as much information as possible to help apprehend the illegal drug dealers.
“The exchange of information between the community and the police is vital. We are dealing with criminality and thuggery, and need the support of the community to ensure the success of our new strategies.”