Tuesday 21 August 2018

Four crimes were reported last year in our ‘safest village’

Sean McCarthaigh

WITH a church, pub and post office, Taughmaconnell is like many other villages in rural Ireland.

However, the small parish located in south Roscommon between Athlone and Ballinasloe, a few miles north of the M6 Dublin-Galway motorway, has a new, proud distinction – the lowest crime rate of any part of the country in 2013.

Just four crimes were recorded in the village during the entire year – one assault, one theft, one burglary and one public order offence.

It was the lowest annual number of offences in Taughmaconnell in the past decade, in which crime levels “peaked” in 2009 when 16 crimes were committed.

Last year’s crime figures in Taughmaconnell translate as 0.3 offences per 100 population – a rate not bettered in any of the other 562 garda stations in the Republic. The average crime rate nationally is more than 18 times higher than the levels found in this quiet corner of Co Roscommon.

In a period where more than 100 garda stations have closed around the country, including seven in Co Roscommon, local community representatives unhesitatingly attribute their low crime rate to the ongoing presence of a garda station in Taughmaconnell, and, more critically, the fact that it is staffed by a resident community garda.

Jim Keogh, chairman of the community council, Taughmaconnell village in Co Roscommon. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Jim Keogh, chairman of the community council, Taughmaconnell village in Co Roscommon. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Taughmaconnell village, Co Roscommon, the place with the least amount of crime in the country. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Although the station is only open to the public for a limited number of hours each week, they are reassured by the fact that the local garda is effectively available on a 24/7 basis to provide assistance whenever necessary.

The chairman of Taughmaconnell Community Council, Jim Keogh, said local residents were aware that they enjoyed comparatively low crime rates and believed such results were achieved by the active involvement by the local garda in groups around the parish.

Tim Farrell became Ireland’s first full-time community officer back in 1987 when he was stationed in Ballybrack, Co Dublin and today he fulfills a similar role in Taughmaconnell, where he has worked for the past 17 years.

“Tim would strongly believe there’s no substitute for a garda knowing the local community and they knowing him in return,” said one local.

Taughmaconnell village, Co Roscommon, the place with the least amount of crime in the country. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Taughmaconnell village, Co Roscommon, the place with the least amount of crime in the country. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Despite low crime rates in the neighbourhood, Mr Keogh admits there are genuine fears among Taughmaconnel’s residents that Garda Farrell will not be replaced whenever he retires from the force, with the added consequence that the village’s station will face closure at that stage.

“We would see it as short-sighted by Garda management if he was not replaced,” said Mr Keogh, who argues that Taughmaconnell’s crime statistics prove the effectiveness of community policing and the retention of garda stations in small rural villages.

His brother, John Keogh, a Fianna Fail member of Roscommon Co Council, said the village’s experience demonstrated how policing was not just about the detection of crime and punishing offenders but “trying to stop crime happening in the first place.”

“Tim would have made a point when he first arrived in Taughmaconnell of getting to know everyone in the village and that’s putting community policing at the heart of the community,” he added, contrasting the current situation with a 10-year period when the village did not have a resident Garda.

Taughmaconnell’s new honour as Ireland’s most crime-free village holds little fear about attracting the wrong type of attention as Cllr Keogh points out that their low crime rates send out a strong message about the effectiveness of community alert and text alert schemes operating in the area.

He also points out that almost everybody in the village would have the local garda’s mobile number.

While the Keoghs and others in Taughmaconnell are firm believers that the model of policing employed in the village has enormously benefited the local community, they remain concerned that the lesson is not appreciated by Garda management.

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