Thursday 18 January 2018

Massive fall in crime as community breaks law to target robbery gangs

Martin Bergin and neighbours in Errill. Photo: Mark Condren
Martin Bergin and neighbours in Errill. Photo: Mark Condren

Paul Williams

A rural community alert group decided to be proactive on crime by technically breaking the planning laws erecting a €15,000 CCTV camera system.

The people in the quiet hamlet of Errill in Co Laois, on the border with Tipperary, erected the network to tackle the scourge of rural crime in their area.

Locals say that the installation of the cameras which are mounted on every approach road in the area have resulted in a dramatic fall in criminal activity.

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They claim there has been no break-ins recorded over the past year.

The decision to erect the CCTV system was the brainchild of local businessman Martin Bergin who set up the Errill Community Alert group four years ago.

"We put the cameras up without planning permission because we could not afford to wait around because of red tape and we have no intention of taking them down," said the garage owner and army reservist.

"The criminals are well aware that there are cameras on every road into the area which also record registration plates and the proof that they work is that there has been no criminal activity for the past year," he added.

Martin said the community took matters into their own hands but it is a small price to pay for security.

He said: "This success came about because we broke the rules and we make no apologies for that because it is a small price to pay to protect our community.

"The criminals don't believe in upholding the law whereas their victims and the gardaí must play by the rules.

"We had to learn how to fix and maintain the cameras which apparently is also against the rules but it is the only way our community can protect itself."

Martin Bergin raised over €15,000 in the local community to buy the camera system, which is individually connected to houses in an area that has no broadband service.

The businessman has been invited by other community alert groups to advise them on the use of CCTV.

"We tell the groups what the gardaí cannot and that is to go ahead and erect cameras regardless of planning permission and red tape which dictates that you must have a big problem with crime before permission is granted," he admitted.

"The gardaí are fully in favour of the use of cameras because they are a great help in tracing and identifying criminals and their vehicles passing through an area."

The community alert activist said that such measures are necessary because of the lack of resources and personnel in the Garda force.

He said the good people working in the force are having their hands tied by government cutbacks.

Martin added: "The gardaí are demoralised because of a lack of numbers and resources, there are a lot of very good people in the gardaí but they need the tools to do the job.

"There is very little faith in the Commissioner and her top management among the public or the gardaí on the ground.

"There has been a lot of talk about change but the reality is that there has been no change.

"I think the Government should have brought in an outsider with fresh thinking to run the gardaí after the removal of Martin Callinan. A lot of individual gardaí also agree with that.

"Our nearest garda station is Abbeyleix which is a half hour away and it closes every night at 9pm.

"They have only one squad car to cover a huge area 50 miles wide so what chance have they of providing the level of policing that is needed," he added.

Irish Independent

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