BY SEÁN P.FEENY AND CATHERINE COOK
OVER two hundred people attend a public meeting in West Donegal on Saturday to address the growing issue of anti-social behaviour.
The issue of rural crime was also highlighted at a Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting in Letterkenny on Friday afternoon where councillors refuted the claim by a senior officer that crime was on the decrease.
The public meeting in Kincasslagh was called by community activist Micheál Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig, who appealed for a ‘community led’ response to tackle crime, intimidation and anti-social behaviour by a small minority in the area.
He said: “There have been assaults, thefts, petrol bombings and the community of Kincasslagh and Keadue has been living in fear of intimidation for the past three years.
“The mere fact that such a large crowd attended our meeting at Kincasslagh is a clear message to the people committing these acts that the people of this part of the Rosses will no longer accept this and will not be silenced,” he said.
Mr Mac Giolla Easbuig said the next step will be to identiy the agencies responsible and bring them together to raise resources and address the problems in that part of the county.
“The gardaí can’t do this alone, this needs to be a wholistic community approach and everyone has to participate.
“I would ask members of the community to continue to put pressure on the gardaí and their local elected representatives and ask them to do their job as that is what they are being paid for.”
On Friday afternoon councillors on the JPC said that while statistics show that crime figures may have reduced in Donegal, this was not the message they were hearing from the people they represent.
Superintendent Michael Finan said that the overall picture of crime in Donegal during 2012 was a positive one and had decreased compared to the previous period in 2011.
Superintendent Finan outlined figures for the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2011.
He said that during that period, burglaries reduced from 254 to 237 adding that recently a number of significant arrests had been made.
He said there had been a 14 per cent decrease in theft offences but said there is no room for complacency and warned the public to be vigilant.
Cllr Gerry Crawford, however, said that while statistics may show a positive overall picture, he feared that the reality might not be so good.
“I am elected to represent the people of the Lifford area and they gave me a message to deliver here.
“And that message is that people in this area are being force to live with burglaries and break-ins to their homes. The truth bears no comparison to the statistics we heard from the Superintendent.
“The whole way of life in rural Ireland is being forced to change by society and these attacks on people and property.”
He also expressed concern that where people were the victims of crime, they were not kept informed of progress being made by gardai.
“I know the guards can’t be everywhere but when crime happens I think there should be more feedback.
“I think some confidence has to be put back into the community again. To let people know they’ve not been forgotten about.”
Cllr Marie Therese Gallagher spoke of similar concerns in West Donegal, particularly in relation to a lack of garda manpower.
“In Kincasslagh, a small number of people have created fear and intimidation for the entire community. During one recent occasion where an elderly lady’s car was petrol bombed, it took an hour for the guards to arrive.”
“This is a very serious concern people are frightened to report matters, but after that incident in Kincasslagh, another 32 people came forward to make complaints about incidents that had happened to them.
“If we’re going to have dwindling resource in rural area then that is what we’re dealing with.
“I want to know what the gardai can do to help the community.”
Superintendent Finan said that in all cases of crime, victims receive a letter with the garda’s contact details and name. He said there is an onus on gardai to keep people informed and if that is not done then they should contact the garda station.
He added that in West Donegal there is great work being done in relation to community policing and that he was satisfied there were adequate resources to cover the district.