A major move to crack down on crime, which will involve the targeting of criminal gangs was announced by the Government and An Garda Síochána on Monday morning with 200 offenders set to be pinpointed through ‘Operation Thor’.
Given the upsurge in rural crime, while not overlooking the ongoing incidences of criminality in our cities and towns, the new operation is set to hone in on ‘high volume’ offences, primarily burglaries.
Waterford city’s relative periphery to the wider motorway network would appear to suggest it is not as susceptible to high-level repeat burglaries and industrial thefts as has worryingly became the norm between the M7/M8 ‘beltway’ in North Tipperary and Laois, for example.
As was revealed last weekend, the closure of rural Garda stations saved only €500,000, a small scale of money when contrasted with the scale of rural crime and the undercurrent of fear which is prevalent in every rural community.
And when one considers the enormous expenditure in areas such as health (which has always, it appears run over budget), social welfare and education, and given that former Taoiseach Brian Cowen enjoys an annual pension of €151,000, the logic in closing rural stations appears all the more bewildering.
And while water will remain a pressing issue on many urban doorsteps, crime and Garda levels will undoubtedly prove the primary issue throughout rural communities come the general election campaign.
So can the stations that have closed, be it Kill or Ballyduff Upper, and under-utilised stations such as Portlaw, be re-opened or be manned for more considerable tranches of time?
And the long-standing issue of Waterford city having only one station – at Ballybricken – with no outlying suburban sub-stations, should surely also be worthy of consideration.
The new plan has made provision for the greater use of technology and improved communication, with 200 top level targets identified (primarily) in the Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Sligo hinterlands.
The provision of new Audi A7s, enabling the force to pursue criminals in equally powered vehicles is obviously welcome – sometimes fire has to fought with fire. But training shall be required to, literally, bring officers up to speed with the use of such cars, and one would hope that such training would be become compulsory for all recruits entering Templemore.
We understand that national prison capacity is now at 90 per cent, which surely suggests we need a new prison building programme to be initiated. Thugs ought to be behind bars, and if that means adding further prison space to the current level, then so be it. Taxpayers, particularly those who have been burgled, would see that as money well spent.
Remember the 150-acre Thornton Hall site in North County Dublin, bought by the State for €30 million a decade ago with a view to replacing Mountjoy and Dundrum’s Central Mental Hospital?
In 2012, a decision was taken not to proceed with the build following a capital budget review, despite the €30m spend. Yet rural Garda stations were closed for the sake of €500,000?
Any political party advocating a commitment to law and order ought to not only re-open rural stations and further boost force numbers, but commit to building this badly needed prison which we have already invested so much money is.
Actions must now match words when it comes to fighting crime, as the public are weary of pre-election auction politics.