IN an effort to curb the dramatic increase in burglaries across the county in recent times, a garda initiative has been launched encouraging more communities to set up Neighbourhood Watch schemes.
Burglaries have gone up by almost a third across Laois and Offaly between 2010 and 2011, from 736 to 974. While the recession is undoubtedly playing its part, Garda Sergeant Padraig Farrelly, crime prevention officer for Laois/Offaly, believes that the huge increase in the number of commuters in the region has also contributed.
“More people are commuting now and not getting involved in their community,” he said. “Years ago, everyone knew everyone else in their area, but now people are moving much move.”
Despite the figures, Sgt Farrelly maintains that crime has begun to decrease locally thanks to the prevalence of Community Alert schemes, which encourage people to report anything suspicious to the gardaí. The importance of Community Alert was highlighted last week through the gardaí’s ‘Supporting Safer Communities Campaign’. The main objective of this campaign was to engage with, and raise awareness within communities of initiatives aimed at preventing crime, improving road safety and creating awareness of the services available to support victims of crime.
One area that has noted a marked improvement since the introduction of Neighbourhood Watch schemes is Stradbally. Over 60 new CCTV cameras were installed at various locations across the town in the past year and a spokesperson from the local Neighbourhood Watch said that there has been a drop in anti-social behaviour during that time. However, while the spokesperson highlighted the effectiveness of such schemes, he said there were concerns that new garda rostering would leave communities without the necessary support.
“Stradbally is tied into city and town rostering, which means if guards are needed to go over to the prison in Portlaoise they’re pulled out of Stradbally,” he said. “Community policing is dropping and unless it’s kept robbers will quickly figure out which areas to break into.
“The superintendent will have a lot to answer for if we’re not supported,” the spokesperson added.
Overall, the latest statistics show that crime has dropped slightly over the last 12 months. However, burglaries and related offences rose steadily throughout the four annual quarters of 2011, while thefts and related crimes also rose over the first three quarters of 2011, before taking a slight dip toward the end of the year.