Crime-hit community fights back with text alert system
A YEAR ago, the people of the small town of Glenties, Co Donegal, were left in shock, writes Greg Harkin.
The local garda station, once the headquarters of an entire garda district, had just been downgraded. Their 24-hour station was gone and now only opens between 10am and 2pm each weekday.
"That's when all our problems really began," said Theresa Gallagher, whose shop, 200m from the garda station, was robbed during a 35-minute crime spree in the town last week.
Two men came into the shop acting oddly. They appeared to leave, but had instead made their way via a side entrance and upstairs and were filling their pockets with cash.
While the thieves were upstairs, gardai were already investigating a series of other incidents along the 1km stretch of the main street. Two men and a female accomplice had walked through every unopened door on the street.
"They walked into my mother's house and she confronted them," said Brian Carr, a community activist and local barman. "They asked if the house was a B&B. Thankfully, she got a new big dog a fortnight ago so they backed off and left." They did the same at four more houses and five more business premises.
Unknown to the thieves however, the people of the quiet town were hitting back on their phones.
Brian and other members of the community came together a year ago to set up a Text Alert scheme. Since then, 15 community text alerts have been issued to 279 people, all of whom send on the same text to their friends and relatives, as well as to the gardai.
Thanks to the text, two local men were able to get descriptions of the thieves and the car they were driving. Three people were later detained by the police in Derry.
"It's the third time there have been arrests as a result of a text alert from Glenties...We are simply extending a protective arm around our community, we're looking after ourselves," said Brian.