While there was a significant reduction in crime in West Cork during the past two years due to the pandemic, things are starting to get back to normal now, says the division’s new community garda
SINCE he took up his new role as crime prevention officer (CPO) for West Cork just before the new year, Beara native Sgt Morgan O’Sullivan has been familiarising himself with his new role, while also introducing himself to members of the public across the Cork West division, abeit remotely for now.
Face-to-face meetings with community alert groups have yet to restart due to Covid, but it’s something Sgt O’Sullivan is very keen to bring back as soon as it’s safe to do so.
‘It’s been exciting and challenging so far, but of course a lot of my meetings with various community alert groups and businesses are still online, but I hope that that can change very soon,’ Sgt O’Sullivan told The Southern Star.
‘It will be great to get out there and meet the public, too, across this large division and advise and help them with crime prevention.’
Having spent 17 years in An Garda Síochána in Cork city, with 13 of those within the detective branch in Angelsea Street, Morgan received a promotion in 2013 where his work took him to Kanturk, Macroom and finally to Bandon.
Sgt O’Sullivan feels that the pandemic brought a different form of policing for all gardaí as he worked closely with many community groups. He said that gardaí got great support from the public when carrying out their duties.
‘That was appreciated and thankfully there’s a positive working relationship with communities in the Cork West division and I hope to continue that relationship in my new role.’
While there was a significant reduction in crime, not just in West Cork, but across the country during the past two years due to the pandemic, things are now beginning to change since society has reopened.
‘Thefts and burglaries were significantly down as people were unable to travel, but there was a massive increase in online fraud with the criminal coming through your computer rather that your front door. There was a 370% increase in fraud related crime like phishing in 2021, compared to 2020.’
Sgt O’Sullivan said a lot of their focus over the past two years has been on the prevention of fraud crime, something that a lot of people are beginning to experience more and more.
‘Nearly everyone has got a scam text or email at some stage and while it is a challenging crime to investigate, gardaí have had success in this area and we always encourage people to report incidents to the gardaí. These scams are continuously changing, so it’s vitally important that we are aware of them so we can assist the victims and also make the public aware of any new trends.’
Sgt O’Sullivan added that gardaí have also noticed that crime, and burglaries in particular, have increased in recent months across the division.
‘We’ve seen an increase in West Cork this month alone, with thieves targeting unlocked houses and cars, and ‘distraction burglaries’ have become common too, with recent incidents reported to gardaí in the Bantry area.’
Sgt O’Sullivan explained that, like fraud, these distraction burglaries change and evolve so it’s important to always be up-to-date with what is going on.
An example would be someone at an ATM machine, who is then distracted by one person, while the other grabs the cash or bank card or takes note of the PIN number.
‘We could have a new fraud scam next week, so it’s an ever changing landscape.’
In the wake of Fraud Awareness Week, which took place across the country recently, Sgt O’Sullivan also warned people of the pitfalls of falling prey to romance fraud.
‘If it’s too good to be true, then it usually is, when it comes to offering money related to romance. People should slow down and think before they act.’
He is hoping that once the face-to-face community alert meetings, organised by gardaí across the division, take place again, it will also give gardaí the opportunity to further assist communities and get updated information from members of the public of any issues they are encountering within their communities and further strengthen avenues of communication between both.
Coastal Watch, which is another part of community alert for West Cork communities, and involves stakeholders including Customs, Revenue and the Irish Naval Service, is another vital link in combatting crime.
‘I would always encourage people in these communities to report suspicious activities on their coastline which could prevent the importation of drugs and any other criminal activity along our coastline.’
Sgt O’Sullivan can be contacted at Bandon Garda Station on 023-885220 or through your local garda station.