Monday 25 September 2017

Communities fear more station closures as burglaries spiral

Cormac McQuinn and Mark O'Regan

communities have expressed their fears that there will be further closures of garda stations as new figures reveal there have been 35 burglaries and thefts a week in areas where stations have been axed or are earmarked for closure.

Their fears come as 100 stations are set to close this year.

It emerged yesterday that 95 stations are to be shut down by the end of the month alone.

Five others will follow in a couple of weeks. The five are Stepaside and Kill o' the Grange in south Dublin, Barrack Street in Cork, Mary Street in Limerick and Redhills in Co Cavan. Another 39 stations were closed last year.

In Stepaside, which is in Justice Minister Alan Shatter's constituency, a campaign has begun in a bid to force Mr Shatter to reconsider the closure, with up to 1,000 people set to form a human chain around the building next month to show their opposition to the move.

Opponents of the move to close Stepaside garda station point to recent Central Statistics Office data which shows overall crime in the area increased by 16pc from 2010 to 2011.

Thefts and related offences rose by 28pc over the same period, the highest level in five years. Burglaries and related offences rose by 30pc, also the highest in five years.

Murder attempts or threats, assaults and harassment soared by 50pc, while weapons and explosives offenses jumped 14pc, the figures reveal.

Another feature of local crime is reported incidents of gangs using vans complete with pumps to steal home heating oil from households.

The station has been serving the area since 1932. Stepaside has 34 gardai who will be primarily allocated to Dundrum garda station, which is five kilometres away.

Mr Shatter said closing garda stations is not a "cost-cutting exercise", adding that its purpose is to facilitate more effective use of garda resources.

"We need the maximum possible number of gardai out and about engaged in frontline policing – detection and prevention of crime – instead of carrying out desk duties," he told the Irish Independent.

However, Aileen Eglington from the Kiltiernan Residents' Association warned there was serious concern over garda response times once the Stepaside station is closed. She said plans to use more technology to try and compensate for the absence of the garda station were not a viable alternative.

"They're imposing an urban model on to a semi-rural community," she said.

Kildare garda stations had the highest number of reported burglaries and thefts, 219, while there were 128 burglaries and thefts reported to the nine stations listed for closure in Clare.

The 11 rural villages in Cork that are losing their stations had 103 burglaries and thefts.

Along with another three stations in Cork city, the county has the most closures announced by the Government.

A spokeswoman for one campaign group opposing the closures in the remote west-Cork region, Margaret Peters, told the Irish Independent that the community there feared that more stations would go.

Two of the remaining stations there – Ballingeary and Durrus – are among the 25 stations with the lowest crime rates in the country, with just 15 and 14 offences respectively reported in 2011.

Ms Peters put the low crime rate down to the "presence and visibility" of gardai.

Her colleague in the West Cork Rural Garda Station Retention Campaign, Con McCarthy, said "fear is now growing" in rural areas that their stations would be next.

The west has been badly hit by station closures, with 36 stations closing across Galway, Mayo, Clare and Roscommon.

John Parker of the Garda Representative Association, which is opposing the closures, said he was concerned.

"If you look at the Colm McCarthy report, he looked for there to be half of the stations that were there (more than 700)," he said. "So that would signify another hundred and something closures."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said there were "no plans for any closures this year beyond those announced in the Policing Plan for 2013".

Irish Independent

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