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Allison Morris: Need to restore public confidence as paramilitary-style shootings increase

If paramilitary style shootings were an effective deterrent to criminality and anti-social behaviour west Belfast would be a crime free utopia.

A 16-year-old was shot in the leg in Forest Street, off the Springfield Road, in West Belfast, the second attack in 24-hours.

If paramilitary style shootings were an effective deterrent to criminality and anti-social behaviour west Belfast would be a crime free utopia.

It's not and therefore they don't.

'Punishment' style shootings and beatings were a common form of summary justice throughout the Troubles.

In the context of that time, policing was almost exclusively focused on the security situation, petty crime and anti social behaviour went largely unreported. A victim of burglary more likely to report the crime to their nearest 'advice centre' than to the RUC.

We're now in 2017 and have undergone a period of radical policing reform and a political process that in turn has changed how many people in former republican strongholds view the PSNI.

However, the seven paramilitary style shootings that have taken place in west Belfast since the start of the year is a bloody indication of a far from normalised society.

Given there were 20 similar shootings in all of 2016, this is a marked escalation.

There have been two people shot within a mile of each other this week alone, one man shot in a random attack on a crowd of young people watching a stolen car as it sped dangerously along the busy Falls Road.

In an highly usual attack the victim, Aaron Carlin was hit by a gunman who fired four shots at leg level into the crowd.

A 16-year-old shot on Thursday evening is the second person of that age to have been shot since the start of the year.

The ramifications of such actions extend beyond the individual injures caused to the victims.

Politically it damages ongoing normalisation and creates the perception of policing no go areas.

A crackdown on the criminality and anti social behaviour by the PSNI in order to restore public confidence is the most effective way to fill a vacuum otherwise inhabited by the armed groups.

However, in places such as Divis, with the highest crime rate in Northern Ireland, that is a daunting - and to date - insurmountable task.

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