Private security firm to patrol Fermanagh trouble hot spots
A private security firm is being employed to patrol estates in County Fermanagh to help tackle low-level crime and anti-social behaviour.
The Community Safety Wardens carry out high visibility patrols in trouble hot spots to provide a link between residents and agencies such as the police, local council and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).
The six month pilot project is being run by Fermanagh and Omagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) and is operating in Enniskillen, Irvinestown and Lisnaskea.
Two wardens work 40 hours a week, at night and at weekends and they can also be contacted by telephone.
They patrol the streets on foot and in a liveried vehicle.
They are jointly funded by the NIHE in the hope that any issues of concern to residents will be quickly resolved.
NIHE south west area manager, Oonagh McAvinney, said the wardens have made a significant impact, dealing with issues such as litter, dog fouling, noise, vandalism, and underage drinking.
"It is a big problem for residents because if they are living in particular estates and if they are constantly experiencing noise for example, that is a real problem for them that they want obviously resolved," she said.
The wardens do not have any enforcement powers but they help to build trust and relationships with residents, so that issues get reported and resolved quickly.
If the problems persist the wardens can bring it to the attention of the NIHE, the local council or the police.
The scheme is not designed to replace community policing, but the wardens are there to support and complement other statutory agencies.
Sinn Féin councillor Sorcha McAnespie, the chairwoman of Fermanagh and Omagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) said the wardens can help to prevent and defuse problems before they get out of hand.
"The PSNI are probably under a lot of pressure and strain at the minute with (budget) cuts so it alleviates the pressure on them as well," she said.
"Also it will prevent young people, maybe, getting criminal records, because if something is able to be stemmed before it starts, I think that a more sensible and straightforward approach is always better."
Bernie Whitley who lives in Windmill Heights and is a member of the West End Community group thinks that the wardens are "a great idea".
"They're there, they're visible and people will know they'll be there if anything happens," she said.
"Like all communities things happen and I think that it's a good idea that the wardens are here so that they can help them."
PSNI Ch Insp Joe McMinn said the police will continue to work with the community safety wardens to "ensure that Fermanagh is a safe place for everyone to live, work and visit".
"We recognise the valuable contribution that community safety wardens will make to the community in Fermanagh and appreciate the role they play in providing support to those who frequent the area," he said.
"Community safety wardens will form an important link between residents, businesses and a number of statutory agencies, improving access to various support and advice services to help reduce low-level crime and anti-social behaviour."