Apology after wrong crime figures released

Chief Inspector Lorraine Dobson.
Chief Inspector Lorraine Dobson.

One of the district’s most senior police officers has apologised after she presented the wrong crime figures to the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP).

The figures, presented by Chief Inspector Lorraine Dobson to PCSP members last week, made pretty grim reading, showing significant increases in many types of crime across Lisburn and Castlereagh, particularly violent crimes, sexual offences and burglaries.

The statistics - released to the Ulster Star by a member of the PCSP - led some councillors to voice concerns about rising crime and falling clearance rates. However, it has since transpired that the figures were incorrect.

Speaking to the Ulster Star, Chief Inspector Dobson said the presentation of the wrong figures was “a genuine mistake” and due to “a case of human error”.

“In the commander’s absence I am the reporting officer and ultimately that responsibility lies with me. I have issued a letter of apology to the chair (of the PCSP) and I will be meeting with the PCSP Policing Committee to explain what happened. It was entirely human error. It’s unfortunate that it happened. It shouldn’t have happened. It’s never happened before and I will be making sure that it doesn’t happen again,” she said.

While the PSNI did inform the PCSP and council that the figures were wrong last Wednesday afternoon, the Ulster Star wasn’t officially told about the error until the day after last week’s edition went to print. The PSNI had been asked about the figures last Wednesday morning - several hours before deadline - but a police spokesman declined to make any comment.

Chief Inspector Dobson met with PCSP members on Tuesday afternoon to apologise and give them the correct crime figures, which still reveal an 8.5 per cent rise in crime (438 more incidents), but a more positive picture in terms of some offences.

According to the latest statistics - for the financial year to date up until February 19 - burglaries are actually down 4.9 per cent overall (21 fewer cases year-on-year), although there has been an increase in incidents in the Carryduff and Castlereagh areas. There has also been a reduction in the number of sexual offences (-4.7 per cent).

However, it’s not all positive, with violence against the person cases up 7.8 per cent, thefts up 12 per cent and drug offences up 20 per cent.

“Overall crime is up, but clearance rates are still good. We are still the best performing district in the service getting on for the third year in the row. Our clearance rates at the minute are 33.5 per cent, which is slightly down on last year (34.3 per cent), but it still means that if you commit a crime in Lisburn and Castlereagh you are more likely to be arrested than anywhere else in the service,” Chief Inspector Dobson continued.

Stressing that the statistics represent real people and victims, the Chief Inspector said police are working hard to reduce crime, and she urged the public to play their part.

Referring to the key issue of burglaries, she urged local householders and business owners to take basic steps to protect their own properties.

Revealing that police have noticed a correlation between cold callers and burglaries, CI Dobson appealed to people to report cold callers and suspicious activity to police immediately.

• A public meeting to discuss burglary prevention and other key issues such as anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping is due to take place at The Four Winds on March 15, 7pm - 9pm.

Top tips to protect your property and possessions from burglars...

Local police are appealing to the public to do their bit in the fight against crime by taking some simple steps to protect their properties and possessions from burglars.

The straightforward advice from Lisburn and Castlereagh Police is this:

1. Close and lock all doors and windows, even if you are only going out for a few minutes.

2. Leave a light on if it will be dark before you get home. Consider security lights. To a burglar, a dark house is an empty house.

3. Keep your valuables out of sight.

4. Cancel milk or other deliveries if you will be away from home.

5. Don’t leave car keys near your door, letterbox or windows.

6. Always check who is at the door. Not sure? Don’t open the door.

7. Set your alarm when going out. If you do not have an alarm, consider installing one.

8. Ask a neighbour or a friend to check your property and to remove post from the porch/hallway.

9. Inform police if your house is to be vacant for any length of time.

10. Always keep sheds and outbuildings locked and secure ladders.