Justice Minister urges community groups to avail of CCTV funding

Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, has encouraged rural groups to avail of a new round of funding for community-based CCTV cameras.

The Laois/Offaly TD was commenting in the wake of a horrific attack in his constituency which saw an Offaly farmer dragged from his bed, and viciously beaten, along with his dog.

Richard McKelvey (54) was savagely attacked by a gang of four men at his home at Glassderry Beg, Brosna, near Birr. After being beaten about the head, reportedly with an implement, he was dragged to a barn where he was tied up as the gang escaped with a small amount of money.

It is understood that the farmhouse had also been targeted within the previous six weeks, and jewellery stolen.

Said Minister Flanagan: “I deplore violence and criminality, and as minister, my role is to ensure that Gardai have the laws and resources necessary to prevent crimes and – where this is not possible – to ensure criminals face justice. The government has introduced a range of measures to address rural crime.

“Rural communities will benefit from the significant injection of policing resources provided by the government and the concentrated anti-crime drive coordinated under Operation Thor, and we have already seen important progress in tackling burglary and property crime.

New legislation has been put in place to target repeat burglary offenders and the government is determined that there will be no let-up on the pressure which the Gardai are bringing to bear on the organised gangs and other criminals engaged in burglary and assault, including the mobile gangs who have targeted rural communities in various parts of the country.

“Gardai continue to pursue a range of measures to support elderly and more vulnerable people in the community, working closely with Community Alert, Neighbourhood Watch and other community groups.

All of these Garda initiatives operate alongside ongoing community policing measures, including problem-solving with local communities and ongoing liaison with households in providing crime prevention advice and assistance to victims of burglary.”

Minister Flanagan acknowledged that during the economic recession, Garda numbers declined. “However, this government re-opened Templemore and is engaged in an ambitious programme of Garda recruitment to ensure a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.

Key to achieving this goal is the commitment to continue the ongoing accelerated Garda recruitment programme with a view to increasing Garda numbers to 15,000 by 2021.

“This will require the recruitment of some 2,400 new Garda members on a phased basis over the next three years – in addition to the 2,000 that will have been recruited by the end of this year since the reopening of the Garda college in September 2014.

“In 2017, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide-ranging reform plan in training in An Garda Siochana. Budget 2018 supports the continuation of this high level of investment in the Garda workforce, with funding being provided for a further 800 new Garda recruits to enter the Garda college in 2018,” said the minister.

The Programme for Government, he said, commits to supporting investment in CCTV systems – an initiative designed to assist in the prevention and detection of local crime.

“This is also reflected in the Action Plan for Rural Development. The scheme will run for three years, with funding of some €1 million being made available each year.

“Under the scheme, eligible community groups can apply for grant aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum grant of €40,000. It is intended that the provision of CCTV schemes will assist in the prevention and reduction of local crime, disorder and anti-social activity, and increase community involvement to prevent and reduce crime in local areas in association with appropriate agencies.

Earlier this year at the ploughing championships in Co. Offaly, I announced a new round of funding for community-based CCTV systems. As minister, I am very conscious of the value that communities, especially rural communities, place on CCTV as a means of deterring crime and assisting in the detection of offenders. I strongly encourage interested groups to avail of the scheme.

The minister said that guidance is available from his department to provide any clarifications required in relation to the scheme.