Stopping rural crime: ‘We can’t allow ourselves to be victims’

Trespassers ‘lurching’ with dogs on farmers’ lands have caused fear and intimidation among farming communities, with rural crime now a major concern.

This has prompted North Tipperary Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) to organise a meeting on rural crime this Monday evening (November 5) in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.

Speaking to AgriLand ahead of the event, North Tipperary IFA chairwoman Imelda Walsh outlined that communities must be able to respond to such threats.

“It’s the whole fear and intimidation – when you think of a trespasser coming onto your property without your permission.

We saw what happened in north Co. Dublin. Our concern is that some of our members – or anybody in rural Ireland – is going to end up attacked by some of these lads coming on and everything else. They’re afraid to approach them.

Walsh outlined that the principle problem is the lack of garda resources and Gardai on the ground.

“We don’t have a garda presence on the ground – and that is a serious, serious issue. The garda presence; it does act as a deterrent – there’s no point saying otherwise.”

CCTV

To help deal with the void being left behind, the chairwoman stressed that more CCTV needs to be brought into play in rural areas. She noted that there are challenges with this, such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation and barriers in communities availing of current grant assistance for such technology.

“I know we’ve the whole issue with GDPR but there has to be a way around that and Government, in particular the Department of Justice – to me it has a responsibility to rural Ireland to put resources into place.

“Now there is funding available but it’s quite difficult to accept it and plus communities have to come up with a percentage of it themselves.

I don’t think that’s acceptable that communities have to come up with funding themselves if they are not going to have the Gardai on the ground.

Walsh said that people must not be taking the law into their own hands.

Travelling salesmen

Another key point stressed by Walsh is the issue of farmers buying gates, tools and other equipment from individuals calling into yards offering to sell such items.

“You have these lads coming around selling gates and selling this and that,” she noted.

“Farmers shouldn’t engage with these people at all because what they’re selling could be stolen from their neighbour up the road.

“It’s a serious thing – it’s dark at five o’clock in the evening; you’ve people living on their own. No one should be afraid to be on their own. You’ve a right to be able to live on your own without fear.”

Community

Walsh stressed the need for rural communities to come together to work with Gardai in preventing and stopping rural crime.

She said that the Department of Justice needs to make CCTV more accessible to communities and not put financial “roadblocks” in their way.

“The whole thing with these lads coming around with lurchers and the fear and intimidation – farmers are afraid to approach them.”

Walsh explained that farmers are afraid because of threats such as people saying they “know where you live and they’ll burn you out”.

The whole fear and intimidation – we can’t allow ourselves to be victims.

“To me it’s about what we can do for ourselves in conjunction with An Garda Siochana and in conjunction with using the resources that are out there, modern technology, to deal with the issue.”

The event

Regarding Monday’s event itself, the meeting will kick off as part of the North Tipperary IFA county executive meeting from 8:00pm on Monday night in the Abbey Court Hotel, Nenagh.

The event will feature deputy president of the IFA Richard Kennedy, as well as a speaker on CCTV and local Gardai.

A local farmer who has been a victim of rural crime, Clive Clarke, will also be present to describe his experiences.

The event is open for all interested in attending, Walsh said, as it is a community issue that affects all rural dwellers.

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