FROM September 2017 to September 2018, a total of 4,493 crimes were reported in Laois. However, in the 12-month period to the end of September this year, that number decreased by 141.
Cathaoirleach of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC) in Laois cllr Tom Mulhall told the annual public meeting that the figures “indicate a downward trend in crime in Laois”.
He was reacting to a comprehensive report by Superintendent Anthony Pettit on crime levels in the county over the past 12 months to the end of September.
Deputy Brian Stanley said that many positives can be taken from the report.
However, he questioned the reasons for an increase in detection of public order, drug possession and drink/drug-driving offences.
He said that the culture of drink-driving is being abolished, but wondered how many people have been detected driving while under the influence of drugs, particularly cocaine. He said there appears to be an increase in people “driving on a cocktail of alcohol and cocaine or some other drug”.
Deputy Seán Fleming wanted to know how many people were escaping endorsements on their driving licences for not paying fixed-charge fines for motoring offences, “with some getting the charges struck out when they go to court”.
Retired Garda Detective Tom Jones said there has been “an increase in drug dealing in Kilminchy, Portlaoise. I’m asking for additional garda patrols for that area and that those involved are brought to task”.
Pointing out that the biggest issue in communities was the increase in drugs and their availability, cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley said: “Only last week, a young lad was taken out of a house nearly dead from a serious drug overdose.”
She wanted to know how gardaí monitor a person who is ordered by the courts to stay away from a particular area. She also sought information on plans to erect CCTV cameras on the Mountmellick Road in Portlaoise.
Bobby Delaney asked what powers have the gardaí in relation to illegal moneylenders.
Replying to the questions, Supt Pettit said that the rise in drug/drink-driving detections is partly down to increased activity of gardaí and additional numbers deployed to the Roads Policing Unit.
He said that loopholes in current legislation allow people avoid incurring penalty points or prosecutions in relation to motoring offences. He added that a tightening up of those loopholes is ongoing.
Supt Pettit welcomed the report about drug dealing in the Kilminchy housing estate and told Mr Jones that extra patrols would be deployed there to tackle the issue. He also said that communities have to contact gardaí with such information so that they can deal with the matter.
He said that funding has been allocated to upgrade the 15-year-old CCTV system in Portlaoise and that cameras “have been earmarked” for the Mountmellick Road, some of which will be placed at junctions or entrances to estates.
Supt Pettit said that the issue of illegal moneylending tends to peak around Christmas time. He said that people indebted to these individuals who feel intimidated, threatened or in fear can contact the gardaí in confidence, “even if they feel they are not in a position to stand up in court or face the person themselves. We need them to tell us what is going on, so as we know who these moneylenders are and we can deal with them”.