THE Andersonstown News has learned that crime rates have risen by a staggering 300 per cent in the greater Ballymurphy and Whiterock area – with just one part-time neighbourhood police officer to serve 3,800 households.
In shocking statistics revealed in the Community Profile of Belfast Trust Areas, published every five years, the Whiterock ward has jumped from being the 161st worst place for crime in the six counties in 2005 to 41st place in 2010.
Local Sinn Féin Councillor Steven Corr said: “The reality is there is a massive correlation and linkage between deprivation that is outlined in this report and this neighbourhood renewal area and crime.
“Services should be responding and what we have in our area is a reduction in neighbourhood policing teams, there has been a constant gradual decrease of officers on the ground over the last few years. Here we are talking one part-time police officer for Ballymurphy in 2013, in the most deprived area of the North. How can that be right? The PSNI will come back and say that they have resources, but they aren’t matching the need here.
“In order to have a major impact upon anti-social behaviour, neighbourhood teams are central. It has to be across the board, the Ballymurphy and Whiterock wards, being the worst in the whole of the north, need to have a serious injection of resources into them – not just from a policing point of view but from all statutory providers,” added Cllr Corr.
Cllr Corr told the Andersonstown News that one of the most shocking things he found was when he came across an article from the now defunct weekly magazine Iris saying exactly the same thing about Ballymurphy and its inequalities – in an article dated back to 1982.
“Basically there was a comparison article written about Ballymurphy and Ballymun in Dublin, only Ballymun has undergone a major transformation, while Ballymurphy remains in the doldrums.
“The bottom line is that this isn’t working, our statistics aren’t getting any better. The issues of dereliction, crime, disorder and mental health are as prevalent as ever. If you are conceived in Ballymurphy you will die quicker than in an affluent area, people might say ‘that’s life’ but it shouldn’t be. Ballymurphy suffered the most during the conflict and what we want to see is a major injection of meaningful interventions into this area.”
Cllr Corr said the idea of going back to the drawing board was one that he and others might need to consider.
“What we need is a strategic overview of the area. We need to have resources – it’s not about community groups it’s about the community. The needs of the community are primary here.
“The only time where we have excelled is when we have lifted initiatives by ourselves – we don’t need any more pilot projects in the Upper Springfield. The Upper Springfield is like an airport there’s that many pilots in it. We need a five-year plan to rectify all that has gone wrong and at the end of it, if things haven’t improved, then people, agencies, need to be held to account, myself included.
“We all have a job to do here, we all need to roll our sleeves up. These facts and figures are shocking, they are shocking and disgraceful. We need to turn this around, that’s the reality.
“Joined-up approaches are nothing more than a catchphrase, there are no real instances of them happening.
“The next step is that we are calling a conference in the New Year to look at these bread-and-butter issues in the greater Ballymurphy and Whiterock area and asking some hard, serious questions of ourselves and the stats [statutory agencies] – the people who are tasked with bringing changes but who haven’t delivered.
“The stats speak for themselves – things are not getting better for the area. This is the reality for the area I represent and it’s a tough place to be in, to represent the most deprived area in the north. It’s challenging, but I’m up for the challenge and I need others to buy into it.
“There were recent calls for the Health Minister to resign over certain issues. Well, here we have a real situation, in terms of glaring health inequality, where the Health Minister should be hanging his head in shame.
“I’ve been representing that area for three years and I have never had any of the stats come to me and say, what about this for an idea? Not once, it’s always the other way around. No-one from the Health Agency has said, these health figures are shocking, I can’t sleep at night let’s do something about it.
“We really need to address that broken-window, sticking-plaster attitude to Ballymurphy and basically the bottom line is stop coming to us with a can’t-do attitude.”