Loyalist paramilitaries have been condemned for attempts to recruit ‘volunteers’ to carry out punishment attacks in the area.
Propaganda posters calling for volunteers to “rid the community of drug dealers, housebreakers and paedophiles” have been erected across Coleraine by the UDA last week.
And the development has sparked fears of “anarchy on the streets” as police seek to identify those responsible for the posters.
Pressure is mounting on the PSNI to crack down on the terror gang, which has been blamed for a series of local attacks in recent months, including the murder of Brian McIlhagga in January.
North Antrim SDLP MLA John Dallat warned of “dangerous times” and claimed anarchy was “just around the corner”. “These are dangerous people, as we have seen in recent months,” he said.
“It is very disturbing that they are so publicly trying to recruit. The PSNI say they have the resources to deal with this, but I am not so confident. They need to tackle this robustly before it gets further out of control. These dangerous people are intimidating local communities.
Mr Dallat described the UDA campaign as “a flagrant disregard for the rule of law”.
“It is a disappointing reality for many that this latest offence will not come as a surprise,” he said.
UUP councillor William McCandless said the posters, which have been put up in the Millburn, Harpur’s Hill and Ballysally areas of the town, were a deliberate attempt to intimidate people and raise tensions.
“This is a very concerning development,” he said.
“We can’t have self-styled paramilitary groups taking the law into their own hands. I want reassurances from the police that action is going to be taken to address this.”
PSNI Chief Inspector Catherine Magee said that officers were working to establish the origin of the posters and those responsible for putting them up.
She added: “Vigilante groups and gangs do not deliver for victims of crime and they do not deliver for communities. Experience has shown that these groups are often motivated by self-interest and self-promotion.
“Communities are best served by police working closely with truly representative groups on the ground.
“Notable recent police activity has included the arrest and charging of a man in connection with a cash in transit robbery in Coleraine and 25 people arrested on suspicion of drugs offences across Causeway Coast and Glens in the past month. Also, anti-social behaviour is down this month in Coleraine in comparison with the same period last year.
“If you want to make a positive contribution to your community, I would ask you to provide any information on crime or criminals to police via the non-emergency number 101 or in confidence through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
The UDA in north Antrim and Coleraine has become more evident in recent months. In March a man in his twenties was shot in the arms and legs by masked UDA thugs at his house in Coleraine. A man in his 40s was also shot at a house on the Finvoy Road, outside Ballymoney. A man in his thirties was shot on the Dunluce Road in Bushmills. And a 45-year-old man was attacked at a house in Carnany Drive in Ballymoney.
In January the terror group abducted a man they were extorting in Portrush and attacked him. They also kneecapped and exiled a 15-year-old boy, and tried to kill a west Belfast man in a gun attack in the St James Park area of Ballymoney.
UDA members have also been blamed for the murder of father-of-five Mr McIlhagga, who was shot in January.