11 April 2006

Horseback patrols to tackle crime

Police are planning to put officers on horseback

Police are planning to put their officers on horseback to fight crime in Northern Ireland.

The move is aimed at tackling crime in the Belfast, Castlereagh and Lisburn areas.

Two horses, on loan from the Irish police, are to be used over two days to patrol Belvoir estate and Dundonald in an effort to curb a rise in crime.

In the coming months, two horses from the garda's mounted unit will come to Northern Ireland for a week at a time.

In recent months, PSNI officers have travelled to Dublin to train with the Irish mounted police.

Mounted patrols

Superintendent Peter Farrar said the horses and their two PSNI riders will be employed in a full range of mounted patrol duties.

"The gardai have about 16 horses, the Met have about 120 horses, it's a massive investment," he said.

"Now, the community is saying to us, 'yes this is what normalised policing should look like, yes this is what a normalised society should look like - then why not'."

However, the chairman of Castlereagh District Policing Partnership, Jimmy Spratt, said mounted patrols were "a stunt".

Mr Spratt, a DUP councillor in Castlereagh, described it as a "ridiculous initiative".

"It is a two-day stunt. I cannot describe it as other than that," he said.

"I was absolutely appalled and, indeed, other members of the district police partnership were also appalled at the police even suggesting such a stunt."

After an 80-year absence, mounted police patrols returned to Northern Ireland two years ago.

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