ALTHOUGH West Cork has a relatively low level of crime, including the theft of farm machinery, property owners in the region should not be complacent.
That was the message coming from members of the local gardaí at the recent Community Alert meeting.
But a new survey has also highlighted some of the frustration the public is feeling regarding how some criminals are getting away with terrorising other local communities – even after they are brought to court.
An Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Asssociation (ICSA) survey, undertaken in conjunction with Waterford Institute of Technology, indicates that two thirds of Irish farming families have been affected by crime relating to their farming enterprise.
ICSA president Patrick Kent described the figures as startling. ‘The results of the survey reveal that the issue of agricultural crime is a far bigger issue than official garda statistics would suggest. They would also suggest that the courts have adopted a far too lenient approach to offenders, particularly to repeat offenders. The rural community believes that the judicial system provides virtually no deterrent to this type of crime.’
The survey was devised by Dr Kathleen Moore Walsh, a lecturer in law and criminology and Louise Walsh, a lecturer in accounting and finance, both from the Waterford Institute of Technology.
The study examines crimes that occur solely on farms or relating to farming activities.
The first section of the report provides data on the incidence of agricultural crime in Ireland. The other sections focus on the data relating to agricultural crime reporting authorities, costs of agricultural crime to the farm business and crime prevention measures employed by farmers.
ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said: ‘The survey results are in keeping with the feedback I am getting from farmers all around the country. The ordinary decent people of rural Ireland are outraged that criminals seem to be acting with impunity. Even where insurance is in place, premiums are always at risk of rising significantly as a result of this type of crime.
Worse still is that farmers are expected to fund expensive deterrents, such as electric gates and security cameras. Meanwhile, rural communities feel under siege due to lack of garda resources. Even where the gardaí are successful in catching criminals, the perception is that they get off lightly in the courts and are given every benefit of the doubt. However, no such flexibility is shown to law abiding citizens.
At a recent meeting I was told a story about a frightened farmer who confronted intruders with his shotgun and within hours his shotgun was seized by gardaí. We also had a report recently from a farmer who was warned by gardaí after a break-in that if a gate fell on the thieves they might possibly sue him for compensation. These cases are adding to the sense of outrage and ICSA is committed to bringing the issue of rural crime to the top of the political agenda.’
The ICSA thanked Glanbia Agribusiness and Done Deal for their support in promoting the survey.