Garda stations at risk
Fresh concerns have been raised about the future of West Cork Garda stations following the release of crime statistics showing them as having some of the lowest crime rates in the country.
Adrigole had a total of four offences committed in 2011 and Ballydehob had 19 offences. Durrus recorded 14 and Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh had 15 offences.
It is thought that these Adrigole and Ballydehob stations are at risk of closure following the closure of six stations in March in the Cork West Garda Division, which covers a very large geographical area.
The six closed stations were in Ballygurteen, Knocknagree, Castletownshend, Goleen, Ballyfeard, and Inchigeela.
Con McCarthy, chairman of the Rural Garda Station Retention Campaign thinks the low figures show how the rural garda stations have proved to be effective.
“Those figures are actually showing the excellent work done by the guard in Ballydehob who retired last November. Communities will be penalised where figures are low, if their stations are closed.
“Robert Peel said that ‘the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it’.”
“What we are saying is that the role of community policing is crime prevention; dealing with the community and nipping issues in the bud, dealing with situations before they become a statistic. The effectiveness of An Garda Síochána in rural areas is that crime figures remain low.
“Closing small rural stations saves only €3,000 per year. Communities would be supportive of paying to keep rural stations open,” he feels.
John Parker, spokesperson for the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and based in Mallow was critical of the way the Government has prepared the way to close rural stations.
“If you know how governments operate, they adopt softening modes. There are several ways. One is releasing CSO figures with the slant on crime figures or getting a backbencher to ask a parliamentary question, which is like a party political broadcast."
He said that offences can be classed in a number of categories such as crime, public order offences, disputes, incidents and others. The CSO figures focussed on crimes however, which is only part of gardaí policing.
“Guards have to respond to family rows, disputes between neighbours, public order offences, but they won’t show up as crimes in the statistics.
“Community policing may involve crime prevention, gardaí attending community meetings and giving advice and a range of other activities that don’t relate directly to crime stats,” he pointed out.
Bantry-based Fine Gael Cllr Dermot Sheehan said that the low crime figures for Ballydehob Garda Station was due to the now retired Garda Billy Byrne, who left the force late last year.
“Ballydehob is the gateway to the Mizen peninsula. They have allocated a guard to live in Ballydehob. I hope that this would be seen as a positive move and I would be taking it as a positive indication. I would hope that it might lead to a full time appointment,” he said.
Goleen Garda Station closed at the end of March. Cllr Sheehan is not aware of any particular problems in the area since then but says we should “see how the summer season went first”.
“People in the Mizen peninsula deserve the same services and recognition as people in Dublin 4.”
Con McCarthy also spoke of the fears that some people in rural areas have since the closure of garda stations.
“We’ve been made aware of people who lock their doors before dark and won’t answer them for anybody until the next morning.”