Big rise in Community Alert schemes
THERE HAS been a 20 per cent increase in the number of Community Alert schemes set up around the State, following a rise in rural crime.
Muintir na Tíre, which runs Community Alert, said it now had more than 1,400 schemes and had noted a “dramatic increase” in calls from people seeking information about setting up schemes and keeping their homes and farms safe.
The scheme involves people reporting suspicious activities, liaising with local gardaí and looking out for their neighbours.
Its national co-ordinator, Liam Kelly, said 40 new groups were set up last year and 34 others were reactivated.
“We’ve about 12 new groups already this year and a huge amount of calls,” he said.
Garda figures show that burglaries rose 8 per cent nationally last year but the increase was as high as 40 per cent in some areas.
Recent aggravated burglaries of older people’s homes in places such as Pallasgreen in Limerick and Williamstown in Galway caused a great sense of insecurity, particularly among older people, Mr Kelly said.
Last month in Pallasgreen a farmhouse was robbed and its inhabitants, two sisters and a brother, were tied up with cable for almost three hours.
Earlier this month, two elderly brothers were tied up and robbed in their secluded farmhouse in Williamstown.
“An incident locally can create huge fear,” Mr Kelly said. “Garda stations are closing and people are very concerned about that. They want to know that there’s someone they can turn to in the absence of local gardaí.”
The increase in the theft of scrap metal has led the Irish Farmers’ Association to call for the introduction of a “track and trace” scheme, which would compel all scrap metal dealers to record the source of scrap metal received.
The farm group said the scheme should also include mandatory checks by local authorities and An Garda Síochána.
Its rural affairs chairman, Harold Kingston, said it was regularly getting reports of valuable machinery disappearing from farmyards and fields as part of work carried out by a sophisticated network of criminals.
Muintir na Tíre is now campaigning to get Garda approval for a national roll-out of a text-alert scheme, after successful pilot schemes in places such as Kerry, Tipperary and Wexford.
One such scheme is running in Askamore, Co Wexford. The community has erected signs that read: “Beware, community texting in operation. You’re welcome if you should be here. We text 300 people and gardaí if you shouldn’t.”
People are asked to call the scheme if they see anything suspicious, and the volunteer manning the phone then decides if it merits a group text being sent.
Mr Kelly said there were dozens of text-alert schemes around the country but all were run in different ways, and a national scheme for such operations would be preferable.