Laois is the crossroads of Ireland for travelling criminals, according to senior gardaí, with the end of 2015 seeing an increase in drug arrests and more weapons seized than the previous year.
At the recent Join Policing Meeting in County Hall, Superintendent Joe Prendergast reported an overall reduction in property crime for Laois of 19 percent, from the last quarter of 2014 to the last quarter of 2015.
However, he revealed that there has been a 200 percent increase in the numbers of arrests made for drug dealing, up from nine in the last quarter of 2014 to 27 in the last quarter of 2015.
Supt Prendergast said that the increase in drug arrests was a good thing, as it indicated the gardaí were getting more of the people responsible. He spoke of the recent undercover operation in Portlaoise in which some 15 suspected local drug dealers were arrested and brought before the courts.
The possession of an offensive weapon has gone up by a whopping 400 percent, but this figure is less alarming when the relatively small numbers are considered, two arrests in the last quarter of 2014 up to ten at the end of last year.
Supt Prendergast said that such arrests usually related to groups of people in disputes, particularly young people.
“They range from a stick, to a baseball bat, to something more serious,” he said.
Assault is up 100 percent (one in 2014, to two in the final quarter of 2015), assault causing harm is up 250 percent (four in the final three months of 2014, up to 14 in the last quarter of 2015), and making threats to kill have gone up by 350 percent, from two to nine.
Supt Prendergast said that the prison accounted for many of these assaults causing harm, as did the increase in the threats to kill. However, some are still domestic assaults, and some could be the result of difficulties between certain groups or families.
“Laois is really like the crossroads of Ireland, criminals have easy access due to the motorway, and we have plenty of our own homegrown ones,” he said.
“We’ve had over 35 arrests since November, the district court is sitting on more than one day, it’s chock-a-block down there.”