Fianna Fáil candidate in Galway East Cllr. Anne Rabbitte says urgent action needs to be taken to quell the surge in crime in Co. Galway after Gort Mart was targeted in a robbery last night.  This has increased fear among communities in Gort, Loughrea and Portumna, which are worried about a spike in rural crime.

Cllr. Rabbitte explained, “This latest robbery comes on foot of a spate of rural burglaries and has created a genuine fear among people living in isolated areas. I have been contacted by a number of older people, who are scared to be on their own because of rising crime levels.  Recent crime figures reveal that more than 30,000 burglaries were committed across the country last year – an 8% increase on the previous year.  This is extremely worrying.

“There is no doubt that the closure of rural garda stations like Tynagh, New Inn and Kilchrest has led to the increase in burglaries across the county.  The presence of a garda in a town or village is a deterrent in itself, but many communities have lost their station and as a result are left exposed.  Since this Government came to power at least 10 garda stations have been closed across Galway.

“This latest attack has rocked the community in Gort.  Locals have been voicing concerns about easy access from the motorway, with many worried that criminal gangs are using the motorway network to target vulnerable communities.  Fianna Fáil has devised a 7 point plan to tackle rural crime and wants to see CCTV cameras installed on motorway exits to detect criminal activity.

“The full seven point plan consists of

– 14,000 Gardaí
We are committed to strengthening the Garda force to 14,000 members and maintaining Garda numbers at this optimal level. We will seek to increase the Garda Reserve to 2000 members. We will also provide the squad cars necessary for the Gardaí to carry out their duties.

– Protect the Elderly
We will enact legislation to introduce longer sentences for those who assault elderly persons who are increasingly vulnerable in rural communities.

– Tougher Sentences
We will introduce legislation for mandatory minimum sentences for those who are convicted of burglary offences. We will also establish a Sentencing Council to promote consistency in sentencing.

– Neighbourhood Watch
We commit to establishing a national neighbourhood watch directorate to centrally support and drive community neighbourhood watch programmes across the county.

– CCTV on Motorway Network
We will install CCTV cameras on Motorway exits to detect criminal activity.

– Investment in Technology
We propose a significant investment programme in the technology Gardaí currently use to allow for smarter policing in our rural communities.

– Restorative Justice
We commit to expanding the use of restorative justice in our criminal justice system where appropriate and ensure that community service orders are fit for purpose and monitored effectively. We will deduct the cost of free criminal legal aid from those convicted from their income and social welfare payments.

“This rural crime epidemic must be brought under control.  Communities should not be forced to live in fear.  This plan can be easily implemented and will go a long way to reducing crime in rural areas”.