OVER 600 households in Shanagolden, Foynes and the surrounding areas have signed up to a text alert scheme aimed at combating rural crime and improving the security of people living in the area.
The St Senan’s and District text alert scheme was launched in Shanagolden hall last week, where Superintendent Tom O’Connor was one of a number of speakers who discussed the benefits of the scheme.
Supt O’Connor highlighted a recent case in Askeaton and Adare where the system was used very effectively to gather information and warn householders about a gang of burglars who were targeting homes in the area.
He welcomed the introduction of the St Senan’s scheme, noting in particular the large number of households that had signed up.
“I was very enthused by the response and the genuine interest shown by the people in the area,” said Supt O’Connor, who described the text alert system as “extremely useful”.
“Instead of just two people in a patrol car, we have hundreds of pairs of eyes out there,” he added.
The scheme is affiliated to Muintir na Tire and operated in partnership with An Garda Siochana. People who sign up for the scheme will receive a text if gardai believe such an alert is needed in the area. At the same time, all households are given a phone number to contact local gardai if they see anything suspicious in their area that they feel should be reported.
“The system is aimed at reducing the level of rural crime but also at reducing the fear of crime,” explained James O’Neill, a community worker with Muintir na Tire.
“According to the most recent Census, 12% of the population is 65 and over, but in some rural communities, like Shanagolden, that can be as high as 24-25%,” he added.
Since it was launched in September 2013 by the then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan, the text alert scheme has been rolled out in a number of communities across the country and, according to Mr O’Neill, has been very effective in countering rural crime as well as giving people living in rural communities peace of mind.
“It also strengthens the partnership between the gardai and the communities, particularly in light of the closures of rural garda stations in recent years,” he said.
“Communities that are further away from the district office of An Garda Siochana very seldom see the superintendent, let alone the chief superindendent, but under this model, the superintendent will come out to the community on a yearly or twice yearly basis and report on the impact the system is having on the level of rural crime,” Mr O’Neill added.
He pointed out that the system had also been used effectively in other areas to report missing persons and other non-criminal matters.
Maurice O’Connor, chairman of the St Senans Community Alert scheme, said the scheme had been running successfully for a number of years and that the introduction of the text alert would add to its effectiveness in countering crime.
He stressed however that people do not need to be able to send a text to be part of the scheme.
“People don’t have to worry about texting. All they need to know is the number that is provided to contact gardai and they can just ring that number. Then, if they are signed up to the text alert scheme and there is a need for it, a text will be sent out,” he explained.
“The beauty of this system is that it give peace of mind to people,” Mr O’Connor added.
The Shanagolden scheme covers a large area, taking in Shanagolden, Foynes, Kilcolman, Coolcappa and Carrigkerry.
As is clear from the number of households that have signed up, there has been a huge response locally to the initiative. However, the committee has not been able to cover the entire area, so Mr O’Connor urged any household who has not yet signed up and would like to get involved to contact the garda station on Foynes at 069-65122 where all the information and forms will be available.
At the launch in Shanagolden last Wednesday night, mobile phone operator 3 also unveiled its new personal security device - the Careclip.
Designed for use by elderly people, the device has a number of sensors which can detect the location, the level of activity and the overall wellbeing of the user. The user can also use it to contact carers or the emergency services if needed.
Grants are available to cover the cost of purchasing the device and information about these or about the text alert scheme can be obtained from Muintir na Tire at 062-51163 or online via muintir.ie.