Rural crime is rising but many incidents go unreported, say TDs
Station closures and reduced garda numbers leave criminals free to target country areas
Danny Healy-Rae: “In the past a criminal could never predict when a local garda would pop along . . . Now, if something happens in Sneem it will take 25 minutes from Kenmare and from Killarney it will take 50 minutes.” Photograph: Alan Betson
The frequency of rural crimes is increasing but many of the incidents are going unreported by those affected, TDs representing in country areas believe.
Deputies canvassed by The Irish Times identified the closure of Garda stations, reduced numbers of rurally-based officers, and urban-based criminals using the motorway network to target rural areas and escape swiftly as concerns.
Despite crime statistics suggesting the incidence of burglaries is falling in many parts of rural Ireland, Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae said the rate of break-ins has not fallen and that old people, in particular, are afraid.
“Criminals are getting smarter all the time and, much as you try to tell people, some of them still make a mistake. They put it up on Facebook they are going somewhere, and they are unwittingly letting people know they are going away,” he said.
“Too many stations have closed down. In the past a criminal could never predict when a local garda would pop along . . . Now, if something happens in Sneem it will take 25 minutes from Kenmare and from Killarney it will take 50 minutes and that would be to come very fast. There are vast areas of ground to cover and the criminals know that.”
Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon-Galway Eugene Murphy said he was concerned about the fall in the strength of the traffic corps from 1,200 to 650.
He said vans can detect speeding but having traffic police on the roads was a valuable intelligence tool in intercepting “suspicious vans on the way to robbing somebody”.
Sligo-based Fine Gael deputy Tony McLoughlin said organised gangs have been targeting north Leitrim and stealing farm machinery, and that shops in small villages in Sligo had were also being regularly raided.
He said it takes so long for gardaí to get to rural areas that people have been advised to install CCTV. He said he would like to see more gardaí stationed in villages.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said crime had been a “biteen quieter” in his own village of Glinsk, Co Galway, recently but nothing has changed for older people.
“There was a time when the guard lived in a village with their family. If a young buck was going wrong they could pull them aside. They knew everybody. They have lost all that local knowledge,” he said.
They are coming off the motorways. They are going straight for the bedroom and looking for jewellery and cash. They ignore the electronic stuff downstairs
Mr Fitzmaurice said much of the crime was smaller stuff, but high-profile robberies and assaults – like a recent incident in Offaly in which a man and his dog were assaulted – “puts the fear of God in people everywhere”.
Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said he was so concerned about the spike in burglaries in south Cork that he has tabled a topical issue on it in the Dáil.
“It’s not just rural areas but in bigger towns like Carrigaline and Douglas. In Carrigaline, we have had 20 burglaries over the past three months. The common trend is they break into empty homes between five and 8pm,” he said. “They are coming off the motorways. They are going straight for the bedroom and looking for jewellery and cash. They ignore the electronic stuff downstairs.”
Wicklow Fianna Fáil TD Pat Fitzpatrick said many criminals targeting his constituency come from Dublin and avail of the easy access and escape routes back to the capital.
He said that at this time of the year it’s house break-ins but that later in the year the criminals would target tourists’ cars parked at attractions and forest parks.
“The biggest problem is people don’t report them because it’s not worth the hassle, or it is wasting Garda time.”