A dissident republican attack is highly likely in the North, a senior police officer said.
The threat from anti-peace process gunmen remains severe and has been shown by recent arms finds, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assistant chief constable Will Kerr added.
However, 800 new applicants have applied to join the service, which is seeking more Catholic recruits.
Mr Kerr said: “The threat is severe at the minute, the definition of severe means an attack is highly likely.”
He drew evidence of the danger from seizures in recent months of pipe bombs. The senior officer said he was conscious of the impact on communities.
He told the Policing Board of elected and independent members in Belfast that those behind attempted bombings had no consideration for the safety of the public.
“The attacks over the last number of months have shown the degree of community contempt that these groups have, leaving viable improvised explosive devices in areas that the community use.
“They are not interested in community support and community confidence.”
Dissidents have killed police officers, soldiers and a prison officer in recent years as they attempted to disrupt the political settlement.
They have also been linked, with Provisional IRA members, to the murder of Kevin McGuigan earlier this year which has left power sharing at Stormont on a knife edge.