WHILE the past week has seen Abbeyleix bask in a spotlight of positivity following the sale of an €8.6m lotto jackpot winning ticket in the town, the spectre of fear lurking over the increased incidents of break-in’s was never far away.
Stan Fyffe of Fyffe’s drapery store in The Square, Abbeyleix commented, “Crime is a major concern. There have been an awful lot of break-in’s locally. Everyone is battening down the hatches.”
Deputy Brian Stanley suggested there is a shortage of Gardaí. “I’ve serious concerns over policing in Laois and how Gardaí are deployed. We need Gardaí on the front line policing and maybe civilians can be employed to assist with administrative desk duties. And perhaps instead of disposing of Garda cars that have 300,000kms on the clock that they could be used by members of the force in rural areas.”
He added, “Burglaries are a huge issue and there have been spates of these incidents in Portlaoise, Abbeyleix, Mountrath and Stradbally. People in small business are concerned how this is affecting their livelihoods while elderly people in rural areas are terrified.”
Fine Gael’s Deputy Charlie Flanagan agreed that Garda resources ‘are an issue’ but said the Garda Commissioner assured him that changes in Laois were ‘not linked to the increase in crime’. “In times of economic difficulty, credit crunch crime becomes more prevalent and I urge people to be vigilant. It is important that the Gardaí receive the full support of the community and that if people see anything suspicious they report it.”
Deputy Flanagan said he was encouraged by the recent formation of Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch committees in communities of south Laois. And added that he’d like to see an increase in the number of Garda patrol vehicles in the county.