Proposed cut backs in garda numbers will leave many areas of Donegal “nearly impossible to patrol” at a time when many people have heightened security concerns following a number of high profile theft and burglary incidents in recent weeks, it has been claimed.
Gardai are investigating a spate of incidents of “hit and run” thefts in east Donegal and an aggravated burglary in Inishowen.
A number of homes and premises were targeted in the Kilmacrennan/Termon area prior to Christmas and this had resulted in the a local “Community watch” group being established which according to one local has yield results already.
Kilmacrennan-based Independent Councillor, Michael McBride, says the closure of rural garda stations and cut backs in garda numbers means communities will need to remain vigilant to help prevent the spread of such crimes.
“My father was a Sergeant in Kilmacrennan in the 1970s. Back then there was a sergeant and two gardai and one garda in Churchill. In 2013 we have got one garda in Kilmacrennan and one just about to retire in Churchill and I think it is fair to say the population has probably doubled in that time. The gardai left here have lots of jobs to do in 40 hours per week and we now depend on mobile patrols in many rural areas and it is nearly impossible for them to patrol that. We (Community Watch) are not the police force but we need people to get active,” Cllr. McBride stated.
Last night they hosted a talk by a spokesperson from “Neighbourhood Watch” in Kilmacrennan, which follows on from a pre-Christmas meeting that drew a crowd of up to 50 people after a number of premises were targeted by thieves.
He said there were up to eight incidents and these ranged from suspicious activity being reported to one house being “ransacked” in a break-in.
In east Donegal gardai believe a travelling criminal gang were responsible for a number of burglary and theft incidents in the Raphoe/Convoy/Drumkeen area where many items were stolen including cash, electronic goods and in one case a woman lost a range of sentimental jewellery and items given to her by her late husband.
Donegal Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill has hit out at the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter for what he describes as a ‘slash and burn’ of garda resources in Donegal.
According to Senator Ó Domhnaill, it “defies logic to dramatically reduce garda numbers this year and shut down local garda stations while Donegal is experiencing a crime wave”.
A statement by the Garda Reprehensive Association says “unconfirmed speculation” reports are suggesting that further extensive cuts to the garda budget and garda resources are to be made by the government.
“The Garda Representative Association will be asking the Garda Commissioner if he has sufficient resources to effectively police Ireland, and does he have sufficient funds to pay gardaí? Garda numbers will continue to fall until long after recruitment commences - because gardaí are professionally trained for a considerable period. Should these budget cuts reduce the number of gardaí further, it is our view that the public safety has already been compromised; and we are gravely concerned that our members have already been endangered,” it read.
Mayor of Donegal, Cllr. Frank McBrearty expressed the view it was not the cutbacks that were the main concern but the lack of border patrols between the two jurisdictions of the Republic and the North of Ireland affording criminal gangs to opportunity to cross the border and escape prosecution.
“The problem here is there is no border and nobody manning the border and gangs from Northern Ireland and Dissident Republicans are coming in and committing crimes,” he said.
The Mayor added he will be writing to Justice Minister Alan Shatter TD to question the effectiveness of managing Donegal Gardai resources.
He added that those responsible for crimes such as aggravated burglary should face a “different type of justice” as often sentences are too lenient before the court system.