Crime is rampant in County Limerick with organised criminals robbing premises, not once but twice “because they are isolated and there is not a garda to be seen.”
This is the view of former Croom-based councillor Pat Fitzgerald, who said there is “widespread concern in rural areas”.
“The criminals are rampant and well organised and policing has completely broken down. There are no guards to be seen. You take Granagh co-op – they have been targeted not once but twice and also the Kerry Agri-business farm store in Greybridge, Manister, which was revisited by criminals,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
He said the highly organised gangs were aware there are fewer garda patrols due to the cuts in numbers and lack of resources.
“Easy targets like these co-ops are being robbed as are houses and farms. Fertilizers and fuel have also been stolen on a regular basis. It is time something was done, we need more gardai,” he said.
A Dail question by Deputy Niall Collins revealed that in 2009 there were 632 members of the force in County Limerick compared to 577 on April 30, 2014 – the latest available figures. This represents a drop of 8.7 per cent compared to Cork and Tipperary at minus 5.8 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively.
“Limerick gardai have one arm tied behind their backs in carrying out their day-to-day duties due to cutbacks,” said Mr Collins.
The Dairygold Co-op store in Granagh was broken into twice in a fortnight. On the first occasion, the thieves took almost 60 bags of coal. The next time gates and fence posts were robbed.
Also in December, silage plastic was taken from the Kerry store in Greybridge, Manister and just days later they broke in again and took more at a cost of over €1,000. The chain of the gate in the Dairygold co-op store in Tournafulla was broken in the early hours of Friday night/Saturday morning, December 19/20. Six pallets of coal valued at over €4,000 were hand loaded into a waiting vehicle.
A number of quarries across the county have also been broken into recently with machinery and fuel stolen.
Gardai say criminals are targeting co-ops and quarries and are asking owners to secure their premises as best they can. In all these cases the thieves would have to spend a considerable length of time loading the goods so are asking the public to report any suspicious activity to gardai.
John Egan, ICMSA man and former councillor, said he knows of many farmers who are installing large electronic gates to protect their property due to the number of on-farm crimes.
“It is absolutely out of control. People are living in fear, especially the elderly. Many are afraid to answer their doors and will check twice to see who it is before opening it. They feel very isolated living in rural Ireland,” said Mr Egan.