Gardaí targetting assault 'hotspots'


Kerry Chief Superintendent Tom Myers
Kerry Chief Superintendent Tom Myers

Tadhg Evans

Chief Superintendent Tom Myers has expressed frustration at the rise in assaults in Kerry this year to date, particularly in Tralee and Killarney, with a 24 per cent increase in 'crimes against the person' from 2017.

Concerns over the sharp rise, though, will be tempered by news that it is anticipated that Kerry is to get approximately 40 new gardaí by 2020.

According to statistics provided at a Joint Policing Committee meeting in Cahersiveen last Friday, Gardaí have made 477 such detections since January - up from 386 for the same period last year.

There has also been an increase in property crime (up eight per cent); criminal damage and public order (three per cent); and drugs and offensive weapons detections (two per cent).

But it was figures relating to assaults that the Chief Superintendent said he found particularly worrying. There has been a 21 per cent increase in assaults causing harm (from 96 detections to 116) and a 24 per cent jump in minor assaults (from 228 detections to 283).

"One thing that's very frustrating is the amount of people reporting assaults but not seeing the case through afterwards," he said.

"They withdraw the assault… or they're not willing to go to court", he said. "In the meantime, we had identified hotspots in Tralee and Killarney in particular… they're locations where we're going to place a presence. Even in the past month or so, we're seeing a significant decrease in those hotspots."

While the number of burglary detections remains relatively stagnant - the number of incidents of aggravated burglaries is down from five to one, with non-aggravated burglaries up from 206 to 216.

Chief Supt Myers warned: "It's a constant challenge trying to monitor criminal gangs, particularly in Dublin".  He is also wary that there could be an increase in the months ahead as the evenings get darker: "If you see something suspicious - report it to Gardaí," he said, adding that such reports have proven successful in the past in tackling potential problems.

Detections of theft from vehicles have dropped by eight per cent, one of the bright spots of the data presented.

The Chief Superintendent said Gardaí have been proactive in asking not to have items visible in cars at locations such as beaches and walkways. While the number of thefts from shops is down slightly, there has been a 35 per cent increase in theft of other items, which could include tools, mobile phones, farming equipment, handbags, and more.

"There are mixed messages there," Chief Superintendent Myers said of the theft statistics. There was also a significant rise of 23 per cent in detections relating to criminal damage excluding arson.

Public order offences are down by 10 per cent so far this year, but there has been a 12 per cent increase in drunkenness offences - mixed messages, the Chief Superintendent said, given that "both crimes are inextricably linked".

"549 public order offences is a lot - but you have to remember how many people come into the county for festivals and events," he said.

Elsewhere, incidents of possessing drugs for personal use are up six per cent to 377, with a 13 per cent drop in possession of drugs for sale or supply.

"Some of those 67 detections [for possession of drugs for sale or supply] are quality detections with some of those involved in the higher echelons of drug activity in Kerry," he said.

"Drugs are in every town and village in this county - and we're not unique in that… Our drugs unit are very, very active; a lot of work is going on with drug activity and enforcement in the county - and that will continue."

The Chief Supt explained that the county has received four new sergeants - two in Tralee, one in Killarney and Cahersiveen -while Supt Dan Keane moves to Tralee.

Fearghal Pattwell is the new Superintendent for Listowel, moving from Bruff where he was promoted to Super in 2015. Both men are to begin their posts tomorrow (Thursday).

Meanwhile, a senior gardaí source has confirmed that Kerry is to get 40 new gardaí over the next two years.  The figure is based on analysis by a human resource  management section at garda HQ.