An elderly woman living in Clonmel was burgled twice in seven days, with a third attempt made on her home, in a recent spate of break-ins in Clonmel.
This was just one of the shocking crimes highlighted by councillors at this month’s meeting of Clonmel Borough Council, in support of two motions proposed by WUAG Cllr Helena McGee.
Cllr McGee called for increased garda numbers in Clonmel, particularly for foot patrols, and promotion of the Neighbourhood Watch programme, in response to increased attacks on people’s homes.
She had knowledge of one house that had been broken into twice in two weeks, previously, as well as other break-ins in houses near her own.
“Now we have recruitment again for the gardai and we need to shout now rather than be found wanting. If we have extra gardai, we can have more street patrols, more vehicles in the town.
“People are less likely to break in if gardai are watching them,” she said, adding that all the break-ins near her were done through the front door, or windows.
“The windows were taken out and left on the ground, not broken, just left on the ground,” she said.
Extra community gardai in housing estates and on streets would provide reassurance to people, particularly those who have been burgled, she said. It would also increase relations between the public and gardai.
Commenting on community gardai, Cllr Darren Ryan, who is the chair of the Clonmel Rapid Programme, said that at a recent meeting, representatives of Elm Park, Cooleens Close and Heywood Drive, said they do not see community guards in their communities.
“That is a sad reflection on a unit that was so built into communities across the town,” he said.
A previous commitment had been given by Chief Superintendent Catherine Kehoe over a year ago, that the community policing unit would be reinstated, he added. While he believes this has not happened, he does not blame Clonmel gardai, who are already ‘stretched to the maximum’.
“Something has to happen, otherwise we are going back down a very sad and unfortunate route, and I think that the Superintendent needs to be aware of that.”
“It is shocking to think that some of the robberies were carried out while people were in the house,” said Cllr Richie Molloy, adding that while there are grants available for panic buttons, the delay is unacceptable.
“You are waiting two to three months to get the panic buttons, which is shocking,” he said. “Also you cannot apply as an individual for these, you can only apply as part of groups, such as the Carers Association, or Neighbourhood Watch.”
He also said there should be a grant available for installation of burglar alarms, which can cost up to €1,000, and is a huge expense for someone on a pension. He echoed the call for more gardai back on the beat in Clonmel, adding that patrol cars are no replacement for a visible garda presence.
“These robberies are happening simply because the garda resources are not there.”
Cllrs Siobhan Ambrose and Billy Shoer commented on the amount of local knowledge that the perpetrators seem to have.
“There are local people definitely passing on information to these offenders,” said Cllr Ambrose. She urged members of the public not to keep money in their homes. Cllr Leahy encouraged people to get organised, form residents’ associations, and if possible Neighbourhood Watch groups.