Sunday 24 September 2017

Locals' fightback helps community to slash crime by nearly a quarter

James O'Neill, a community worker with Muintir na Tire
James O'Neill, a community worker with Muintir na Tire
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

Rural communities are fighting back against crime with a successful text alert system which has seen burglaries in one area drop by almost a quarter.

Remote communities around Thurles in Co Tipperary have been operating the text system for over a year and a half, with 85pc of households signed up to the scheme.

In the 10 months since its inception, the Thurles Garda District saw rural burglaries drop by 21pc and drug detections rise by 14pc.

The scheme, which is operated by Muintir na Tire in partnership with An Garda Siochana, has now been rolled out in hundreds of communities around the country with 10,000 homes signed up to it.

James O'Neill, a community worker with Muintir na Tire, said the scheme was so successful because it reconnected communities and neighbours.

"There is a bit of work involved in this scheme from the community side of things, but it is remarkable how much more connected it makes areas.

"The reduction in the level of rural crime is also resulting in a reduction in fear," he said.

While nationally almost 12pc of the population are over the age of 65, Mr O'Neill said that level can rise to as high as 26pc in many rural areas.

Households that sign up for the scheme receive a phone number to contact local gardaí if they see anything suspicious in their area.

Gardaí will also send out alerts to households in certain areas if the need arises.

"When gardaí get alerts, they can check vehicle descriptions and licences on PULSE to check if there's anything to worry about.

"Gardaí can then send out alerts to homes in the areas where the vehicle was seen to keep an eye out.

"The system works so well because local people aren't getting involved themselves, they are just alerting gardaí but they are sure of a response within a quick time frame," he said.

"It also strengthens the partnership between the gardaí and the communities, particularly in light of the closures of rural garda stations in recent years," he added.

Irish Independent

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