Community Safety and Local Policing Arrangements in Northern Ireland

Publication: 21/03/24
Cover of the Community Safety and Local Policing Inspection
Community Safety and Local Policing Arrangements in Northern Ireland

We all want and deserve to live in communities where we feel safe and are safe.  Making sure that happens involves a lot of organisations and their leaders working together well.

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland’s (CJI’s) latest inspection report examined the community safety strategy in Northern Ireland and partnership working.  It considered the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI’s) performance against the eight Hallmarks of Neighbourhood Policing, focusing on Hallmark 2: Engaging Neighbourhoods. Inspectors also conducted a Follow-Up Review of CJI’s 2019 Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSPs) Inspection report as part of the inspection.

How is community safety delivered in Northern Ireland?

The PSNI play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of people in their communities. However, effective community safety extends beyond policing with other leaders and providers such as health and social services, housing, education, local councils, probation, political representatives, and voluntary and community organisations also key to effective community safety.

Investing in developing effective relationships and partnerships with local people and providing a known and trusted  local police presence are important parts of the community safety landscape where Departmental policies, strategies and priorities are intended to be delivered through a complex network of governance structures and organisations.  However, it is a crowded landscape and there needs to be an effective community safety vision, strategy and action plan that are owned and known by all involved in its delivery.

Abstraction of Neighbourhood Police Officers

This report recognises the dedicated, hardworking and passionate neighbourhood Police Officers Inspectors met who understood what trusted relationships and good communication looked like in their communities. However, the inspection report highlights concerns about the abstraction of Officers from their core neighbourhood duties to other roles. There is a need for more information on the scale and impact of this practice.

Stability at senior levels

Frequent changes in senior Police Officers can disrupt relationships built with community representatives.  Stability in leadership is crucial for maintaining trust and continuity in community engagement efforts.

Ongoing challenges:

The Chief Inspector acknowledged that there are still security threats and challenges that make Neighbourhood Policing particularly difficult in some communities.  She also recognises the budget pressures and hard decisions needed about priorities but said it was also vital not to lose the ground gained in Neighbourhood Policing and its positive impact on connections and meaningful engagement with citizens in local communities and the issues they face.

Recommendations for improvement:

This inspection report makes one strategic and eight operational recommendations for improvement, including the Department of Justice leading the creation of a new community safety vision, strategy and action plan for delivery in Northern Ireland.  Mapping community safety structures operating across Northern Ireland and creating an overview of purpose, membership, funding arrangements, governance and outcomes is a key operational recommendation to provide clarity for all operating and funding services.

Recommendations for the PSNI included reviewing their Abstraction Policy and a reassessment of their commitment to 16 hour a day Neighbourhood Policing cover to ensure better utilisation of resources.

PCSPs Follow-Up Review:

The Inspection Team identified some positive progress since the 2019 Inspection of Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSPs), but challenges persisted and further unification and alignment of information provision and communication should be considered.


Chief Inspector Jacqui Durkin emphasises the potential of effective neighbourhood policing and community safety strategies in Northern Ireland.  Addressing concerns such as abstraction levels and leadership stability, while implementing the strategic reforms outlined in the inspection report, are important to transform communities and make them safer. 

Read the press release.
Read PSNI's Action Plan.
Read DoJ's Action Plan.
Listen to Criminal Justice Inspection Unpacked (CJI's Podcast)