A garda station in rural Galway was under threat of closure this week, as new online crime statistics tool showed that it had dealt with just three incidents of crime in 2011.
The tool, which was created by the Central Statistics Office and the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) at NUI Maynooth, revealed that Leenane Garda Station in Co. Galway was among a handful of rural stations around the country with fewer than five recorded cases of crime in 2011.
The figures have now sparked speculation as to the future of the Connemara station but local Sinn Fein Senator Trevor O Clochartaigh has defended the need for a garda presence in the area, saying that the low numbers of crime in certain rural areas should not result in them being viewed as crime free places but rather areas of “good community policing”.
“I would take it as a measure of the success of a Garda station, the low rate of crime,” the Senator said this week.
“I think using the numbers of crimes isn’t a good way of measuring the success of a Garda station, because if good community policing is going on, the Gardaí locally know what’s going on and therefore you would expect that the crime levels to be lower.”
The Sinn Fein Senator added that he was concerned that the statistics could lead to the closure of the Connemara Garda station, noting that it could be “used as a kind of benchmark” to reduce services in rural areas and “make cutbacks by stealth”.
Senator O Clochartaigh said this would not only leave the area open to crime, but would also leave the people in the area without essential Garda services and result in the community being forced to travel long distances.
“What you also have to take into account in an area like Leenane is the service, for example, of filing out passport forms, getting a Garda to sign them and all the other administrative duties that are done in a Garda station, which are essential in a rural area.”
In contrast to the low level of crime in Leenane, the city’s Mill Street Garda Station was ranked as having the seventh highest rate of incidents in the country in 2011 and the second highest rate of public order offences.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, Sgt Shane Cummins explained that the high numbers last year were due to an unusual spike in ‘one off’ offences. These were primarily minor drunk and disorderly cases, many of which were dealt with by way of adult caution.
Sgt Cummins explained that the high number could also be a result of high enforcement around the city from Thursday to Sunday.
“Because we have high enforcement then the figures are obviously high. Because we’re out there, we’re coming across more offences and we’re dealing with them.”
He also assured the public that this is not a pattern that the local gardaí are concerned with and they are “constantly watching the figures” and report them to local councillors four times a year.