A news story was published this week, by the independent, of the elderly lady Eva Sutton aged 91. Eva was savagely attacked in her home, in in incident which left her hospitalized. The assault was carried out by a man, Michael Cash, who had 96 previous convictions.
Another story circulating the news feed was the one of the 30 year old May man, Alan Cawley, who was found guilty for the murder two elderly, special needs brothers. The murders occurred approximately after Mr. Cawley had been released from Castlerea prison.
This got me thinking, why has there been an increase in rural crime as of late? And why has nothing being done about it?
The Facts and Figures:
Upon investigation the results are staggering. A recent survey carried out by the ICSA fund that 65% of farmers are now worried for their families safety, while two thirds of all farmers surveyed had been victims of a crime relating to their farm.
Rural crime, as of late has been on the increase, in fact according to figures from the Central Statistics Office, the number of homicides, dangerous acts and sexual assaults have increased by 12.7%, 7.5% and 8.6% from 2015. Interestingly this report also shows burglary and theft statistics, which have decreased by 29.8% and 14.3% from 2015.
If this is the case, then why does it seem like rural crime is on the increase?
In the survey on Agricultural crime, By the ICSA, it was found that for 41% of farmers there was more than one incidence of crime reported, while 25% witnessed one incident only, and 34% none at all. 47% reported cases of Vandalism/Criminal Damage/trespassing(VCDT), while 5% reported assault, 43% thefts and 5% fraud. With regards VCDT the breakdown of this is as follows, 65% of all crimes associated with VCDT resulted in destruction or injury to land, 15% reported a destruction or injury to property and 20% reported trespassing.
This has, unsurprisingly, left farmers and family farms worrying for their safety, especially with the many recently published farm attacks.
What has Been Done?:
Even though numbers, published by the Central Statistics office, suggest that crimes such as theft and burglaries are on the decrease though other reports say that agricultural crime costs up to €2.5million per year. This comes with an average cost of €4,300 to farmers and many saying they would rather incur costs themselves than reporting it.
So is there anything actually being done?
In fact there have been numerous operations and investigations carried out by An Garda Síochána in recent years such as Operation Thor. These operations, like Thor, were set up specifically to help counteract rural crime. Since it's introduction Operation Thor has had a total of 74,000 checkpoints set up and have made 4,400 arrests with a further 4,900 charges. The charges for these crimes varied from theft to burglary, to firearm and drug offences.
There has also been announcements by An Garda Síochána as of late, where they say they will invest a further â‚¬88.5m on overtime, while also putting 720 new vehicles on patrol since 2015.A new law has also been proposed to implement a curfew on night time shooting, in a bid to stop night time thefts and trespassing.
On the basis of these facts, it's clear that An Garda and government officials are in fact doing all they can to tackle the problem.
Why the increase?:
Well this boils down to a number of different factors.
The main problem seems to be with the closing times at rural Garda stations and indeed the recent closing of many of the smaller Garda stations. This has no doubt influenced the increased crime, and a lack of on site Garda presents a serious problem for rural areas. In fact A lot of people say they just don't feel as safe knowing the local station is closed.
The disrupted opening hours of the stations still in operation is also a problem, with many Garda workers having to split their time between a couple of different stations.
A Guard having to drive a half an hour from one station to another hardly fills us with a degree of confidence in the system, what if they were needed right there and then? Who would help then? Who would stop thief who may be on the run?
Upon investigation it is clear that rural crime is still on the rise, even though figures do suggest that there have been decreases just not solely in agriculture.
The government and An Garda seem to be doing all they can, within their strict budgets and An Garda cannot be blamed for budget cuts. Operations in place and proposed law changes do offer a degree of hope, but from my own experience I have seen a lot of farmers looking to protect themselves and their livelihoods with on-site CCTV cameras.
The only logical next step is to increase the use of Community alert and text schemes already in place. These have already been in place for a few years and have shown, especially the text alert, to have a great degree of success. These encourage social cohesion in rural areas and help prevent crime opportunities. The more eyes and hands the better!
I am not though suggesting we take fighting crime into our own hands, I am merely suggesting we work together as a team and help Garda in any way we can. This would not only give us a degree of responsibility in the matter but would mean that there are more eyes watching out from criminals.
Whatever the conclusion, something has to be done and soon. People need to be able to feel safe in their homes, and on their farms.