More than 25 per cent of the North and East Donegal people interviewed in a recent Sinn Féin survey of attitudes toward crime said they do not feel safe in their own community.
“That surprised us as a party,” said Pádraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Féin TD for Donegal North East, calling the response “worrying”.
The Sinn Féin survey also showed that 31 per cent of the people interviewed had been victims of crime or anti-social behaviour in the past five years but 27 per cent of those people did not report the incident to authorities.
Deputy MacLochlainn and Sinn Féin Cllrs. Mick Quinn, Jack Murray and Gerry McMonagle are meeting today with Donegal Garda Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn to discuss the report’s findings and recommendations.
Deputy MacLochlainn said a survey by the Irish Farmers’ Association showed a similar percentage of respondents did not report incidents of crime or anti-social behaviour. There was “the same considerable gap between official crime statistics and crime on the ground”,” Deputy MacLochlainn said.
Cllr. Quinn said it was important for people not to undervalue the reporting of crime, saying that the allocation of Garda resources will be affected “if reported figures don’t tell the full story”.
The report also includes several pages of recommendations, addressing the need for increased Garda resources, particularly in light of Donegal’s proximity to the city of Derry; maximixing cooperation between gardaí and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI); support for and expansion of Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch schemes; and other issues related to community safety, the court system and Joint Policing Committees.
Cllr. McMonagle said the survey was conducted in late 2012, before the widely reported incidence of burglaries and robberies the county experienced in the early weeks of 2013. He said Sinn Féin volunteers conducted all the interviews face-to-face, and the more than 500 people interviewed represented a broad demographic range. The party’s public representatives also met with senior members of the gardaí and PSNI, as well as with resource centres and area community, sporting and health groups.
While gardaí have reported falling crime figures, the survey reported that 59 per cent of people interviewed believed there was a serious problem with crime and anti-social behaviour in their community and an equal percentage believed the level had risen in the past five years. Seventy-nine per cent of respondents wanted to see more Garda patrols.
“What you’re seeing there is a real sense that crime has increased across the county and a real issue with Garda patrols,” Deputy MacLochlainn said. “That’s the perception across the county.”
Eighty-six per cent of people interviewed said they would like to play a greater role in assisting the gardaí in their local area, a response Deputy MacLochlainn called, “really encouraging”.
See Thursday’s Donegal Democrat for more.