The top police officer in Londonderry has denied the existence of ‘no-go areas’ in the city, despite both the Housing Executive and Royal Mail withdrawing services from certain areas.
The pull back follows multiple security alerts and vehicle hijackings in the city on Monday, around 48 hours after a car bomb exploded outside the courthouse on Bishop Street in the city centre on Saturday.
Superintendent Gordon McCalmont, addressing media at the Strand Road police station on Tuesday, said the PSNI’s main line of inquiry is that the dissident republican grouping known as the New IRA is behind both the car bomb attack and the three hijackings on Monday.
A van belonging to the Housing Executive and another belonging to the Royal Mail were amongst those hijacked.
The Housing Executive confirmed on Tuesday that its maintenance and heating contractors have withdrawn from the mostly nationalist cityside area of Londonderry.
Royal Mail said it had halted deliveries in the Creggan, Shantallow, Pennyburn and Ballyarnett areas, a move it said had been made on the advice of the PSNI.
But Supt McCalmont insisted the city was “open for business” and denied the existence of no-go areas.
Asked about the Royal Mail halting deliveries, he said: “Derry is open for business. That advice (to Royal Mail) hasn’t come from myself as PSNI district commander.”
Asked if there were ‘no-go areas’ in the city, Supt McCalmont replied: “No. That is not the case. Derry is open for business.
“That is where these terrorists want to take this to but every day I work with people in this community trying to take it to a different place. The terrorists can’t take us back.”
In a statement the Housing Executive said the “protection and safety of people who work for us is paramount” as it apologised for the pull out.
“We apologise to our tenants for this suspension of service, however, given the circumstances, this decision is unavoidable,” a spokesperson said.
“We hope that there is a resolution to enable services to resume as soon as possible.”
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “On the advice of PSNI, we are not delivering mail in some areas of Londonderry/Derry today (Tuesday). These are Creggan, Shantallow, Pennyburn, Ballyarnett.
“We are very sorry for the inconvenience to our customers.”
In the first incident on Monday, three men reportedly hijacked a white Transit van in the Circular Road area at around 11.30am before throwing an object in the back and abandoning the vehicle.
Army bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion on the van.
Just over two hours later, at 1.45pm, police received a report that four masked men – one allegedly armed with a gun – had hijacked a postal delivery van on Southway. Police said the two occupants of the van were ordered to drive to Lonemoor Road and leave it there.
The third incident saw another abandoned vehicle in the city cause panic on Monday night. Police attended Northland Road after an Asda delivery van was left parked across the road, stopping traffic in front of St Mary’s Secondary school.
Supt McCalmont said a “a proportionate, community-based policing plan” is being implemented.