There is thought to be a small dissident republican presence in Ballymena, although opinion is divided as to whether it is outsiders who 'recruit' young people or whether there are senior figures in the town.
Police say a general threat from dissidents has existed in the town for some years and describe it as "clear and present".
"We believe there's a threat against police officers in Ballymena," a spokesman said.
Five people three of whom have addresses in the town's Fisherwick estate and one in Dunclug face charges of membership of the Real IRA and possession of explosives.
They are due to reappear before Ballymena Magistrates court on July 27 and were arrested during the police search of houses in Fisherwick in February last year during which three incendiary devices were found.
For the past number of years young people have attacked the emergency services during the annual internment commemoration bonfire on ground beside Fisherwick estate and residents and politicians have blamed the violence on nationalists and republicans from outside the area.
Sinn Féin and unionists were in agreement last August on an internment commemoration parade which was attended by two bands from Antrim town and Co Tyrone.
Ballymena's first republican parade had route restrictions imposed so could not leave the Fisherwick estate, which is a cul-de- sac.
Despite this more than 500 loyalists came running from Ballykeel estate, across wasteground and towards Fisherwick but were met by police in riot gear.
The protesters burned an Irish tricolour, played Lambeg drums and waved union flags.
Sinn Féin, the SDLP and unionists said the majority of Fisherwick residents had not wanted the parade to go ahead.
The estate was also picketed by loyalists in the summer of 2001 who were angry at the flying of Tricolours in the cul-de-sac.
PUP representative and convicted murderer Billy McCaughey attended the protest in the company of UDA and UVF figures.
He said attacks on the Catholic church at Harryville could be "minimised" as a "trade off" for an end to flying Tricolours in the town.
Residents decided to remove all the flags bar one which was erected on an 'official' white flag pole although the SDLP said homeowners had been forced to fly an Irish tricolours by a campaign of republican intimidation.
During the protest police arrested 26 men, all of whom worked at a local coach-building company, after they took down Tricolours but charges of breaching the peace were dropped against 21 of them.
McCaughey was involved in a number of other loyalist protests.
They included the long-running Harryville church picket and the 2003 burning of Tricolours outside council offices in protest at SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan's calls for the council to debate its year-round flying of the union flag.
In the lead up to Christmas 2004 a wave of fire-bomb attacks which destroyed shops across the north was blamed on dissident republicans. One Ballymena shop was damaged while a device was spotted before it ignited in another.
A community worker, who would prefer not to be identified, said sectarian attitudes were prevalent in the town but warned that among some young people anyone outside their own group was seen as a threat, not just those of a different religion.
An element of his work entails speaking to young people involved in the youth wing of paramilitary groups.
The UDA is the largest loyalist paramilitary group in Ballymena while the UVF has a small presence.
He estimated that "a couple of hundred" young people belong to loyalist paramilitary groups and approximately 30 are aligned to dissident republican paramilitaries.
The community worker said it was possible to 'reeducate' someone involved with paramilitaries.
"You have to get the person to realise what they are trying to express through joining this organisation, what their motivation was.
"For a lot of members it is not a Protestant ideology that they are holding or they may have joined because of peer pressure.
"You have to get to the root of the cause [of them joining] and move forward to take them away from it.
"You have to get them to sit down and talk and meet people who in their mind they see as a nationalist, republican or Catholic. When that happens it breaks down perceptions of what these people 'from the other side' are."
Although he believes sectarianism is the individual's expression of his or her own beliefs he sees part of the blame lying with the family and community.
"It's a learned attitude but it can be unlearned. There is room for an organisation to do some work with their parents' generation, with families. Perhaps this is where the Churches could come in and take part. It's the responsibility of the community," he said.
The community worker pointed to confusion and fear among the loyalist community, which is faced with an increasingly confident, educated and prosperous Catholic population.
"Ballymena was not really affected by the Troubles but it is starting to get a more Catholic or nationalist community. It is ever greening."
However, he warned that individuals were taking advantage of dissatisfaction among young Catholics.
"Dissident republicans are giving leadership to an element within the Catholic community and I don't think Protestant loyalists know what to do because it's never happened in the past."
The community worker also highlighted the responsibility of elected representatives to lead by example.
"There's a real separation between the community and politicians. Politicians say they represent the communities but I don't really know if they do. I don't think they understand what's happening.
"Loyalist paramilitaries don't want to be connected to the DUP.
"Dissident republicans don't want to be connected to Sinn Féin."
By refusing to share power DUP representatives are not displaying civic leadership and are poor role models for Protestant people, he said.
Despite the apparent impenetrable nature of sectarianism the community worker remains optimistic.
"I'm hopeful for Ballymena. There is hope for someone attached to the youth wing of a loyalist paramilitary organisation. If you don't have hope you don't have anything."