A major survey of over 500 farmers across the country in recent weeks has highlighted serious concerns on rural security, with 54 per cent of respondents either dissatisfied or totally dissatisfied with the efforts of the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, to protect rural communities.
The survey highlighted the fact that 11 per cent of farm families, which is the equivalent of 13,000 households, have been victims of rural crime. Nearly 37 per cent feel less safe in their home in the past 12 months, a finding that contradicts recent reports that rural crime is falling.
Responding to the findings, IFA Deputy President and Chairman of IFA Countryside Eddie Downey said the Minister for Justice needs to toughen up the fight to ensure that the level of rural crime is reduced and that the people living in the country’s 440,000 rural households feel safer in their homes and businesses. Some 43 per cent of farmers felt that the presence of Gardaí in their area had decreased in the last 12 months.
He said the level of rural crime recorded in the survey is at variance with recent comments that crime levels are dropping, and Eddie Downey questioned whether some victims of crime are reporting it.
“Communications by the Garda, especially in keeping in touch with victims and reporting back with updates on progress, needs to be improved,” he said.
He said that there is a massive bank of support among farm families to assist as the survey shows the vast majority of farmers are alert in watching for suspicious activity and over 83 per cent are prepared to participate in a voluntary alert programme. A total of 43 per cent have joined a Neighbourhood Watch or Community Alert group.
Mr Downey said the IFA, in association with Muintir na Tire, have made proposals to An Garda Síochana on a voluntary texting service that would involve the wider community reporting suspicious activity to assist in solving rural crimes.
He said it was important the authorities harness the goodwill of rural people in preventing and solving crime as available resources continue to tighten.