THE level of antagonism that Clare gardaí face when they are called to domestic incidents “often beggars belief”, according to Chief Superintendent John Kerin.
His comment came at a public meeting of the Clare Joint Policing Committee (JPC) on Monday, which was adjourned for 15 minutes as a mark of respect to Garda Anthony Golden, who was shot dead after responding to such an incident in Louth, as well as those who died in the Carrickmines tragedy.
Speaking about the uncertainty that gardaí have to face on a daily basis, Chief Superintendent Kerin reflected, “We don’t know at any given time what awaits us.”
He also said the gardaí have to deal with people who are at their most volatile, at times when they may have drink taken or something has happened domestically.
During the meeting, it was revealed that Clare gardaí have responded to 302 domestic disputes in the first nine months of the year and Superintendent Kerin said these generally aren’t simple calls.
“It’s not a question of a guard going in for five seconds and saying ‘it’s grand’,” he commented. He said such calls can actually take hours and gardaí are required to make a follow-up call some time afterwards.
He said often the people involved don’t want garda intervention, beyond pacifying the situation on the night.
As well as the 302 domestic disputes, Clare gardaí also had to respond to 81 sudden deaths, 17 suicides, 30 suicide attempts, 53 calls under the Mental Health Act and 99 missing person reports.
The chief superintendent also said the closure of rural garda stations doesn’t seem to have led to more crime in Clare.
Responding to a question from Labour Party TD, Michael McNamara, he said most of the increases in crime have been in places where garda stations remain open.
While he added that he is “not blasé”, he said in this county there is “no evidence of an increase in burglaries, due to the closure of stations”.
Deputy McNamara also asked him if dissident republicans are active in Clare and the garda chief said, “There is always a small bit in every county in Ireland and it’s something that we monitor very closely.”
Fianna Fáil TD, Timmy Dooley asked him about the amount of gardaí at work in the county and the garda chief said in the Shannon area, the level of resources required by the airport is an issue.
“We could do with more people in Shannon, more than any other place in Clare,” he claimed. However, he said that in the future he does hope to have more gardaí at work in the town and that their work will be more community focused.
He revealed that there have been three aggravated burglaries in Clare so far this year.
The first was in the early hours of February 2, when a house in Ennis was broken into by a former partner of the householder. The second came at 3.15am on July 21, when a house in Ennis was entered by a next-door neighbour armed with a machete, who threatened the homeowner, before making off with his car. The most recent one was in the early hours of August 30, when a house in Kilmihil was entered by a number of people known to the occupant(s), who broke the front door and windows.
Chief Superintendent Kerin said while one such event is one too many, people in Clare don’t need to be “overly frightened”. He also said this county doesn’t seem to have the levels of violence that would be seen in other counties.
Figures revealed at the JPC meeting have shown that crime in Clare went up by 8% in the first nine months of 2015. However, despite the spike, in general, recent years have seen fewer offences recorded.
There has been no homicide offence this year so far, compared to one in the first nine months of last year, while there have been 40 sexual offences, up from 32 in the same period last year.
There have been 253 assaults and related offences (up 34), no kidnappings and related offences (down two), while there have been 16 robbery, extortion and hijacking offences (down 10).
The amount of burglaries and related offences is up by 30 to 289, while the incidences of theft and related offences is up by 73, to 793. Fraud and related offences are up by 54 to 99.
Drugs offences are down by 61 to 260, while weapons and explosive offences are down by one to 38. Incidences of damage to property and the environment are up by 41 to 331.
Figures for the first nine months of 2010 were also provided and, in every category but one (fraud and related offences), there were fewer crimes in 2015. Overall, there were 608 fewer crimes in the first nine months of 2015, a 22% drop.
By Owen Ryan