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Community Alert groups have given local gardaí 7,500 more sets of eyes

March 31st, 2017 7:10 AM

By Southern Star Team

Community Alert groups have given local gardaí 7,500 more sets of eyes Image
Announcing the new Caheragh Text Alert scheme, with Chief Supt Con Cadogan were, front from left: DJ Dineen, chairman, Caheragh Community Alert; Chief Supt Cadogan, Jackie O'Donovan, secretary; Teresa Keohane. Back row: Pat Holland, treasurer; Garda Bridget Hartnett (Bantry community garda), Sgt Ian

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People power is a great way of ensuring the gardaí have up-to-date information on suspicious cars and activity, a meeting near Skibbereen heard. Siobhán Cronin reports

AT a meeting to announce the establishment of the Community Alert group in Caheragh outside Skibbereen recently, Chief Supt Con Cadogan reassured locals that the West Cork division is one of the least crime-ridden divisions in the country.

In the last 12 months there were just eight burglaries reported in the Drimoleague area, he noted, but added that good community involvement was helping to keep crime at bay.

He explained how people power could have a major effect on the detection of crime. 

For example, a black Volkswagen Passat, which was spotted in Millstreet earlier in the week, was involved in other crimes in the West Cork area a few days later, he noted. 

A homeowner who had spotted the car didn’t contact the gardaí with those details until other crimes had already been carried out. If they had contacted the gardaí earlier, they may have prevented the later crimes, he said.

He explained that the text alerts sent to members of the Community Alert group would not always have the full registration details included, in case the matter went to court, but there would be enough detail in the text to help local people identify suspicious cars operating in their area. 

If local people rang their garda station with details of any suspicious cars, they may well prevent crimes happening later in that day, or subsequent days in other areas, he said. ‘Pick up the phone and let us decide if the information is important or not,’ he urged.

The gardaí are having a difficult time in the media at the moment, said Chief Supt Cadogan. 

However, the force is in the middle of a five-year renewal and is now one-and-a-half-years into this. 

A lot of the IT systems have been updated, including the introduction of an automated number plate recognition system, which is now in most patrol cars.

If you see a patrol car parked up on the side of the road, the chances are the garda is checking the computer for a car’s tax or insurance details, he pointed out. 

Another issue of concern, said the Chief, is the theft of farm machinery. 

This is not as big an issue in West Cork as it is in other areas of the country, but farmers still need to be vigilant, he said. 

Farmers must also be aware if they are buying secondhand machinery that they know the origins of it, he said. If the gardaí find stolen property, they are entitled to seize it, he said. The Chief Supt added that if anybody wanted to send him any information, they could put it into an envelope and mark it for his personal attention, sending it to Bandon Garda Station. ‘I’d have no problem with that,’ he said.

Back on home turf, Chief Supt Cadogan, who is originally from the village, said the last time he was in the Community Hall was with ‘Master Collins’. He said he left Caheragh in 1975.

Addressing the meeting, crime prevention officer Sgt Ian O’Callaghan thanked Drimoleague-based Garda Ambrose Whitty for his help in establishing the Community Alert group in Caheragh.

And, welcoming Chief Supt Cadogan, he said:  ‘This is the first time we have had a native West Cork chief in my 20 years in West Cork, who lives and works here.’

Explaining the benefits of the Community Alert scheme, Sgt O’Callaghan said that already there had been a major reduction in crime in West Cork.

Sgt O’Callaghan said that between the years 2014 and 2015, there had been a 19% reduction in crime. ‘Having very active Community Alert groups is part of that,’ he said. 

There have been many successful prosecutions, thanks to the scheme, and the text alerts, introduced in June 2014, he said. He added that this meant there were now over 7,500 extra sets of eyes helping the gardaí in West Cork. ‘Criminals may not always be out to commit the crime but they are travelling the highways and bye-roads of West Cork, often to carry out reconnaissance,’ he said. Having as many people as possible keeping an eye on them was very important, he added. 

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