'Keep safe, observe all health guidelines and know that we are there to support communities through these unprecedented times."
That was the message from front-line gardaí, with Fermoy-based crime prevention officer Sergeant John Kelly telling The Corkman that An Garda Siochana will not be found wanting in this time of national crisis.
While Sgt Kelly said crime levels have reduced over recent weeks due to a combination of people abiding by governmental advice to stay home and an increased garda presence on the streets, members of the public still needed to be on their guard.
"Our towns, villages and roads are a lot quieter, which makes our job of patrolling the streets, offering people help and advice and preventing crime a lot easier. With less people out and about it becomes easier to spot those who may be up to no good," said Sgt Kelly.
A case in point being the detection of suspected heroin by Fermoy gardaí at a COVID-19 checkpoint near the town in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
"Our advice to people who don't want to fall victim to opportunist criminals remains the same as it has always been. Keep lights on at home, do not have large sums of cash in your possession and keep keys and valuables out of sight," said St Kelly
"There are also a large number of closed business premises around the area. Our advice to their owners is to make sure alarms and CCTV systems are in working order and keep a regular eye on the buildings."
Sgt Kelly did warn that criminals will try to find other ways to operate, as witnessed by an apparent increase in cyber and text crimes. In one such instance a man received a text purporting to be from An Post saying that a parcel had been stopped and he had to pay €2 to get it released and asking for him to provide bank details.
"I saw screen-grabs of the text and they were very professional looking, even down to the fact they had an An Post logo. With the increase in online shopping people can get duped if they are expecting a delivery. Thankfully in this case the man was not waiting on a parcel so he became suspicious and alerted gardaí. There are many more of these kind of scams out there. People need to be alert to them and not get caught out," said Sgt Kelly.
"People also need to be aware of strangers calling to their door. There are a lot of good people within communities calling to the elderly and vulnerable, but there is also the chance that people might take advantage of that community spirit. So, do not entertain people you do not know and, remember, gardaí will be in uniform and have ID if they call to your home. If you have any suspicions call us, that is what we are there for."
Sgt Kelly said gardaí also recognised the anxiety and fear felt by those who may be victims of domestic abuse during the period of restrictions on movement.
"We are taking this opportunity to reassure victims that domestic abuse incidents, including coercive control, will continue to receive highest priority response for service," he said.
"If you are a victim of abuse or you know of a family member or friend who is a victim of such abuse, that information is important to us and I ask that you make contact with An Garda Síochána. If you require urgent assistance or support, please call 999 or 112, we are there to listen, to help and to protect".