Woodenbridge closes ranks

A RISE in robberies around Ballacolla has caused a community to come together in forming a new community alert scheme.

A RISE in robberies around Ballacolla has caused a community to come together in forming a new community alert scheme.

Last Tuesday night saw the launch of the new Woodenbridge and District Community Alert, which covers a rural area between Durrow and Ballacolla chaired by Michael G Phelan, in the St Patrick’s Hall Ballacolla.

While few of those present spoke publicly about their experience, a number of local people spoke to the Leinster Express of the fear caused by a rise in robberies and other crime. They blamed the motorway which they believe gives thieves a quick getaway. Alert Chairman Mr Phelan spoke for many at the launch.

“Since the advent of the motorway there has been an upsurge in break-ins. People seem to come off the motorway and find a few targets and return at some stage.

“It is in all our interest to be vigilant and alert. We are not going to save the world but if we could prevent crime in the area then it would be an achievement.”

Ballacolla-based Community Garda Pat Neary said houses that are empty during the day are targeted and thieves are also looking for small valuables. He backed the new scheme

“There is no magic fix but it has to be good idea that the community has come together and that there is a greater awareness of strangers in the area,” said Garda Neary who was accompompanied by Declan Quinlan.

The meeting was addressed by Mr Noel McCarthy, regional Development officer with Muintir na Tire, which helps community alert schemes. The Portlaoise-based former Garda Superintendent urged vigilance and warned against confronting thieves. While he recommended that the people contact gardai and neighbours where they spotted something suspicous, he urged people to call 999 in emergencies.

Mr McCarthy encouraged people to build ties with neighbours especially the elderly. Personal alarms, and the bottle in the fridge scheme for medical emergencies were among the measures he promoted, as was a text alert system.

Paddy Fitzpatrick of Laois Carers said there is a “big upturn” in the demand for community alert. He said the community alert network was a great asset to communities.

Alf Harvey, photograher and Ballacolla native, launched the scheme by unveilling the first community alert sign. He said criminals “had no respect for people or property and they target rural areas”.