'We need more gardaí to stop rural crime wave'
Published 14/03/2016 | 02:30
A businessman who has been targeted by thieves on six separate occasions in the past two years says the next Government needs to "up its game" on rural crime.
Finn Harps centre-half Mattie Crossan (29) runs three takeaways in rural areas of Co Donegal.
He was part of the soccer squad taking on reigning champions Dundalk at Oriel Park on Friday.
But he says the threat of a return of burglary gangs to his premises in Killea, St Johnston or Raphoe is never far from the back of his mind.
"It never goes away," he says. "You are constantly on your guard and always on the look-out, hoping it doesn't happen again."
In one raid in Raphoe, the masked thieves raided the takeaway and threatened staff.
The terrifying raid was captured on CCTV. In another raid, burglars smashed their way into his St Johnston premises and stole cash and a cash register.
Mr Crossan has spent €5,000 on new security shutters and installed panic alarms in a bid to thwart another raid.
Last year, he had to move from his premises in another border hamlet of Killea after his chip shop there had been smashed up in a ram-raid attack.
"I had to move after that attack," he said. "I had to get more secure premises, but it's hard to keep going knowing that this could happen again.
"I've been raided five or six times in the space of two years. No one has ever been charged, no one has appeared in court."
Mr Crossan said local gardaí were "the best in the world" but there were not enough of them.
"It's crazy that we have a handful of gardaí along this side of the Border, with no thought whatsoever given to the fact we are neighbours, 2km away, with Derry city, which has a population of 100,000 and where resources are also being cut," he said.
"It works both ways. Criminals from both sides of the Border can come and go.
"The local gardaí are brilliant. They are around as much as they can be but there aren't enough of them."
The Finn Harps player said he was highly frustrated.
"The main problem is the justice system. If anyone is caught for something, they are back out within hours on bail.
"No one does jail time any more. I'd hate to be a garda, doing all their work and then seeing it come to nothing," he said.
"People in rural areas and small business people like me working in rural areas feel badly let down."