Head of Newcastle West Garda Division, Supt Eamon O’Neill
THE raiding of a cannabis grow-house in the Knockaderry area and a hijacking of a family returning to Limerick were two “significant” events demanding garda action over the past three months, Newcastle West councillors were told this Wednesday.
Speaking at the first meeting of the Newcastle West Joint Policing Committee, Superintendent Eamon O’Neill also told councillors he planned to launch a new community policing model in the district early next month.
A significant amount of cannabis plants had been found in a rented house in the Knockaderry area, the superintendent explained, and there had been other, small drug seizures in Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale. The perpetrators involved in the hijacking in early January, had been identified and arrested and a file was being prepared for the DPP.
There had also been a problem with the theft of a significant number of quadbikes in the West Limerick area over the past 18 months or so, councillors were told. But, Supt O’Neill said, three people had been arrested in connection with these thefts. “We are now satisfied we have identified the group involved,” he said. The end-market for the bikes, he told Cllr John Sheahan, was outside the country. “I have to be very careful of what I say because the matter is going before the court,” he said.
But he praised the co-operation of one farmer in particular who was able to alert gardai when his quad-bike was moved. “There are lessons to be learnt,” he said, urging people to take responsibility for their property.
Gardai also had to deal with an arson attack on a rented house, the superintendent continued. But, he said, it was not feud-related.
Supt O’Neill also told councillors that a new approach to community policing would be rolled out across the Newcastle West garda district next month. “We have the model structure and are ready to roll,” he said. However, they wanted to have certain details of the communications system firmly in place before this occurred.
Meanwhile, however, he said, 39 members of the gardai have now been named as community policing gardai and have been given specific tasks to engage with residents' associations and other householders. In addition, 10 gardai will have responsibility for Text Alert and a Business Watch will follow after that.
The superintendent said they hoped to launch the community policing programme in April when community representatives would be introduced to the system and to the gardai.
However, he told Cllr Francis Foley he would not be extending the opening hours of the garda station in Abbeyfeale which is currently open for just one hour a day. To do so, he would have to take people off front-line policing, he said. But a community garda was now in place in Abbeyfeale, available from 9am to 5pm.
“She will go out and meet people in their homes. If people require a garda service, we will go to their homes. We can bring the garda station to them,” he said.
Policing now was no longer an issue of individual hubs but was carried out on a district level, Supt O’Neill argued. At any one time, he said, he would have a sergeant and 10 gardai on duty for the whole district.
“I think we all need to start thinking on a district level,” he said.
“The day of working in hubs is gone.
“I am not saying we have a lack of gardai,” he continued. “But I would take another 20 gardai if I could get them.”
Two gardai were appointed to the district before Christmas, he said but they were about to lose a sergeant and another member.
Tributes were paid to gardai, council, army and emergency staff and to the Red Cross for their unstinting efforts during Storm Emma.