Residents of a rural community near Clonmel have set up a text alert system to warn each other of suspicious activity in their area and are carrying out night-time surveillance drives to look out for suspicious vehicles and activity.
These are among a series of initiatives the residents of Russellstown are putting in place to tackle and prevent crime and anti-social behaviour in their community.
A group of 14 residents formed the Russellstown Support Group following a meeting organised under the auspices of Ballymacarbry Community Alert to discuss strengthening Community Alert in their area. Itâ€™s a sub-group of Ballmacarbry CE, which covers a wide rural area.
Russellstown Support Group member Eleanor Muhlwald said the meeting on January 24 was organised due to an increase in â€œunsavouryâ€ behaviour in their area that was causing residents concern.
â€œGda. Donal Foley gave an encouraging talk on how the community can handle unlawful activity,â€ said Eleanor. â€œHe explained that the community have a vital role to play as most crimes brought to justice rely on members of the public coming forward to report them and give evidence. Without public action, support and confidence, the GardaÃ cannot make communities safer.â€
At the beginning of February, members of the Support Group set up a text alert system where they send and receive text messages about suspicious activity they observe in their locality.
Eleanor said the texting system has proved to be a huge success so far. Records of all suspicious activity spotted around Russellstown are kept and forwarded to Gda. Foley if necessary.
The residents have also been authorised by Ballymacarbry Community Alert and Gda. Foley to receive texts on breaking information on crimes and suspicious activity in the Waterford area from Gda. Supt. Michael Leacy based in Dungarvan.
Eleanor pointed out that in Longford this texting system helped the Gardai apprehend members of a large Dublin criminal gang
The night-time surveillance operation is conducted by two men, who take a drive around the locality and record any suspicious vehicles. All the information is collated, recorded and reported to Gda. Foley if necessary.
The Support Group has also compiled a list of local resident volunteers, who are available to be called at any time of the day or night for any neighbour if they feel vulnerable or unsafe. A large of local people have volunteered for this initiative and sheets of their names and numbers have been handed out all over the community.
â€œOne woman in our area has said to me she now feels very secure in her home knowing there are neighbours looking out for you,â€ Eleanor pointed out.
The Russellstown Support Groupâ€™s next move will be to erect signs and surveillance cameras in their area. Ballymacarbry CE is investigating funding for this for the Russellstown, Four-Mile-Water and The Nire areas. Another proposal the Support Group is considering is giving out stickers for local cars so that cars not from the area are easily recognisable.
Eleanor encouraged other communities to follow their lead. With rural garda stations closing and under threat, rural areas had to be more vigilant, she said. The measures they were taking sent out a clear message to criminals and others to stay away from their community.