ARMED garda checkpoints are operating across Laois as a major crackdown begins on roving criminal gangs.
The checkpoints were mounted on the same week that justice minister Charlie Flanagan announced the establishment of a new garda task force targeting criminal activity in the Laois-Offaly division. Minister Flanagan said: “As minister, I have a clear message to criminals: there is no place to hide. Gardaí have the resources and the skills to prevent crime and to ensure offenders pay the price.
“There may be a perception that rural towns, villages and townlands are soft touches for thieves and burglars. That perception is wrong. I am confident that the new garda task force set up to tackle crime in the Laois-Offaly division will be highly effective.”
The task force is comprised of a sergeant and eight members of the force, overseen by Laois Garda Superintendent Anthony Pettit. It will work with local gardaí and will be supported by the crack regional armed Emergency Response Unit as well national garda units as required.
The move follows a series of rural burglaries and attacks across the division over the past few weeks. These included a violent assault on an Offaly farmer with iron bars. In another incident, a high-speed car chase across Laois ended near Monasterevin, where a shot was allegedly fired at gardaí.
While this move is welcome by many, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) issued a statement last week saying that people in rural areas “are outraged that criminals seem to be acting with impunity”.
ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said that not alone is rural crime financially “wreaking havoc” but it’s also imposing stress and emotional impact on the victims.
“We cannot accept crime as part and parcel of life in rural Ireland. As a result of the startling findings of the survey, ICSA is committed to bringing the issue of rural crime to the top of the political agenda,” he said.
“ICSA would encourage farmers to report all instances of crime to the gardaí, even if they cannot see any immediate benefit from doing so. The figures revealed in this crime survey need to be reflected in official garda statistics so the scale of the problem can be recognised and appropriate resources put in place,” he added.
The report’s findings indicated that 45% of respondents did not report instances of agricultural crime to the gardaí.