A GARDA from Abbeyleix will be assigned to Ballacolla in light of the village’s station closing at the end of January. Garda Declan Quinlan will be dedicated to the area, a public meeting in St Patrick’s Hall was told last week.
Speaking at the meeting was Chief Superintendent John Scanlon who travelled to Ballacolla to reassure residents.
“I come from a place like Ballacolla and there are 99 places just like you around the country faced with this unenviable task. I didn’t come out to meet the press but to talk to you”, he told the large crowd.
“We will not disappear off the face of the earth. We will assign a Garda to this area and he will come here if necessary to the community centre. We will still go to schools in the area to complete our programmes”.
The Chief Supt acknowledged the work of the Gardaí in the area over the past number of years.
“That is the essence of true community policing. This is a very law abiding area, there are no criminals living here. We need you now more than we’ve ever needed the community”.
He said that he wasn’t there to speak about why the station closed but said that he felt strongly about giving a service to the community.
“I want to listen to you and hear what you have to say. We need to take the fear of crime out of communities. We are not getting any extra resources so we have to make do and we have to work together. We will keep the service going. I am sorry to see the station closed but that is the new reality”.
Chief Supt Scanlon said that although the nearest station in Abbeyleix is currently a 24 hour station, this status is under review.
“I’m not so sure to continue like that is a good idea. The best might be the Garda on duty out in the car patrolling the area”.
He said that he was sorely concerned that the Gardaí would lose contact with people in the area.
“Garda Quinlan will be dedicated to this area. We want a point of contact who people feel comfortable with. He is a local person and here for the long haul. If it is a serious crime we will put three or four people onto it”.
He emphasised to the crowd that Ballacolla’s Garda had retired in December and the area was being serviced from Abbeyleix since then.
“This is a low crime rate area and I don’t want to put fear into people, especially older people. I don’t want the community to feel abandoned. I come from a rural area and I know what it means to be an elderly person in a rural area”.
He told the crowd to get the word out there about the new Garda for the area, to set up a text alert system and to include the information in their parish newsletter.
“This is the bread and butter of what we do in communities. We want to to feel confident to ring the Gardaí”.