Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 30 March 2017

A solution to rural crime: what about following the money?

Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

James O'Neill, Muintir na Tíre's regional development officer for the south-east pictured at the launch of Community Text Alert for Dranagan, Co Tipperary, last March. Photo: Joe Kenny
James O'Neill, Muintir na Tíre's regional development officer for the south-east pictured at the launch of Community Text Alert for Dranagan, Co Tipperary, last March. Photo: Joe Kenny

Last week the government made further noises about tackling the current epidemic of rural crime, with news that a fresh Garda operation will be announced shortly after today's budget. But unless this brings something totally unexpected and off the Richter scale, I fear there still really isn't the serious political will to address crime in this country.

It is likely this latest garda operation will see more resources freed up for gardaí working in rural areas and make them more visible.

This follows the introduction of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill that gives judges greater powers to refuse bail for repeat offenders and the announcement of a pilot scheme for the introduction of CCTV cameras on motorway exits. We are also being repeatedly told about an impending 550 new Garda recruits.

All of these are pieces of the jigsaw but there are many other missing pieces and, while some of these would require additional financial support and commitment, what many others need more than anything is political resolve.

Without doubt, we need to "follow the money".

However, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has repeatedly said it does not have the resources to pursue criminal gangs. This should be a priority and its potential payback would be much more than financial. Then, when gang leaders are identified, they should face sentences of meaningful length.

The path of the stolen goods also needs to be followed. Paddy Byrne, president of Muintir na Tíre points out elsewhere in these pages that they have been lobbying for years for legislation covering the scrap metal sector.

Legitimate


As Paddy says, the legitimate scrap metal business is relatively small. In other scrapyards, someone can just drive in with a van, unload any kind of metal, no questions asked, and leave with a ball of cash.

Much of this metal is not scrap at all but rather stolen.

Then there are the many regular events, including marts and fairs, where there are large amounts of farm implements of unknown provenance for sale.

How is this either permitted by law or by the people who run these events?

However, it wouldn't happen unless there were people willing to buy them. As farmers, we have to acknowledge that we have a certain amount of responsibility for this ourselves and farming bodies have to become more vocal in its condemnation.

But crime will never be solved by the 'stick' approach alone. A big carrot is also needed and that is what would require the greatest political resolve, genuine long-term commitment and vision.

There is an economic theory that crime is a logical alternative to work where jobs are not available. I have no doubt that there are far more robberies happening now than a decade ago.

Of course, there will always be some people who will stick with crime regardless of what legitimate income earning opportunities exist, but more sustainable rural jobs would go a long way to turning the tide.

Indo Farming



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