A positive engagement between members of An Garda Siochana and four Shannon Municipal District councillors took place at their May meeting which featured concerns about local crime.
Cllr Gerry Flynn acknowledged the good work being done by Gardaí but pointed out that there have been repeat burglaries in Shannon, including that involving an elderly person who was a victim of burglars twice in the space of a year. Another concern was damage caused to vehicles parked outside homes, including tyres slashed during a number of incidents in March when thousands of euro of damage was caused to vehicles. Describing this as “niggly behaviour”, Cllr Flynn said it’s upsetting to a lot of people and he called for a more visible Garda presence around the town.
Representing Shannon Gardaí were Inspector Tom Kennedy, Sergeant Seamus Mulligan and Detective Sergeant Kevin O’Hagan. Sgt Mulligan acknowledged that a small number of serious incidents have taken place and said Gardai do their best to follow up on these incidents. He added that Shannon benefits from the extra manpower that has been allocated because of the airport. As a result, the incidence of serious crime is lower than in many other places.
DS Kevin O’Hagan agreed that there should be a greater presence of Gardaí on the beat and said personnel in Shannon have increased by five since Christmas. Two Gardaí being trained for mountain bike patrols will to be on patrol during the summer. In addition a new Community Garda has been appointed. DS O’Hagan hopes these measures will lead to a more visible presence in the town over the summer months.
Recalling a word used by Cllr Flynn, he said “niggly” behaviour, or criminal damage for no apparent reason, is very prevalent in Shannon and is something the Gardaí are always working on. Sgt Seamus Mulligan pointed out that last year there were a total of 17 burglaries in Shannon. This year there are nine in total so far, five at residential premises.
Gardaí in Shannon have set targets this year to have a Neighbourhood Watch set up in every residential area of the town and Community Alert in each rural area. Sgt Mulligan stressed that people can help themselves in the prevention of certain types of crime. For example he said some burglaries were preventable if doors had not been left unlocked. This is often the case with cars, as over 70% of those broken into had been left unlocked.
Cllr PJ Ryan said there is a vast difference between policing rural and urban areas. As a former chairman of the Joint Policing Committee he is also aware that it’s been a long time since any new Gardaí were allocated to Clare. He believes communities can do a lot of things to help themselves. To illustrate the point, he said the text alert system works very well in Cratloe especially for reporting suspicious vehicles.
According to Cllr Pat McMahon we live in dangerous times with gangs moving freely around the country on the motorway network carrying out all sorts of criminal activity. He also favours the text alert system, particularly in rural areas where it gives people a better sense of security. Cllr McMahon expressed his thanks to the Gardaí for their ongoing work in tackling the illegal drug scene, particularly heroin, in the Shannon area. The Fianna Fáil councillor doesn’t think people will ever see Gardaí walking the beat the way they used to but having regular squad car patrols is a great consolation for people.
According to Inspector Tom Kennedy the major challenge for Gardaí in Shannon is to increase community engagement while also meeting their commitments to security at the airport. This challenge, he said, is becoming greater all the time with resources, in particular, always an issue. He also admitted that it is difficult to combat a lot of the burglaries, criminal damage and anti-social behaviour which Cllr Flynn had referenced.
However he said there has been a lot of detections in Shannon, although he acknowledged that progress has yet to be made with the Tola Park burglaries and other incidents. Inspector Kennedy said Gardaí are always looking at better ways of meeting their responsibilities and he invited anyone with questions or suggestions to contact Shannon Garda Station.
Gardaí and councillors agreed to continue this engagement at the municipal district on an annual basis. Finally, Cllr John Crowe, chairman of the Shannon Municipal District, and the fourth councillor in attendance, thanked the members of An Garda Siochana for their participation.