PLANS for the development of a new dedicated economic crime unit in Clare are still on track, a local Garda chief has revealed.
In an interview with the Clare Champion, Chief Superintendent of the Clare Garda Division, Seán Colleran, confirmed economic crime is currently being investigated by the Detective Unit.
However, Superintendent Colleran said gardai are planning the establishment of an economic crime unit and as part of their continued focus on economic crime and fraud.
This new task force was mooted after an increase in fraud crimes in the county in the last quarter of 2021.
“We don’t have the new economic crime unit formally established yet, it is part of the crime unit. This is something we are looking at, which is resource dependent. This is something we want to achieve, but this doesn’t mean we are not investigating economic crime now,” said the Chief Superintendent.
“To have a specific economic crime unit within the overall crime unit, to have that specific skill set and to be able to allocate resources to this is something we are looking at.”
“I expect in time we will have that new unit but at this point in time there aren’t as many new recruits coming out of the Templemore Garda Training College to balance out the retirements,” he said.
Over the last few years, he said Clare Gardaí have lost members through retirement and have in the words of Superintendent Colleran been a “victim of our own success” due to a number of promotions.
He said they also have a number of specialist units that need to be fully filled as well after some vacancies.
“This is an issue we engage in frequently with the Garda Commissioner and I am confident that in time we will get our resources up to what we had a few years ago. We have got new members from all over the country who bring different skill sets, having worked in Dublin and other stations.
“There was a reduction in key crime figures in 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on travel and more people being at home.
“Over the last five years, our crime figures are trending the way you would expect and are down in some areas.
“We have made a lot of strides particularly in relation to serious crime with a lot of outcomes and convictions in court. This is something we continue to focus on,” he outlined.
Asked about the recent alleged firebomb attack on a residential dwelling in Ennis, the Garda Chief condemned this very serious incident before adding the vast majority of people in the county are law-abiding citizens.
He said a small minority of people are causing misery, which is the focus of intensive Garda investigation from the low-level criminals to the those who are the key organisers.
While Superintendent Colleran is confident he has enough resources at his disposal to tackle serious drug-related crime, he acknowledged that any additional resources are always welcome.
“I expect we will get more resources in the short to medium term, but we have enough resources to tackle serious crime, notwithstanding more resources would help us do our job even better,” he explained.
Acknowledging drugs is a major cause of serious crime in Clare and throughout the whole country, he confirmed drugs were prevalent in all rural towns and villages and were not just a problem in urban areas.
He said gardai also focus on drug prevention and the dangers of so-called gateway drugs during talks in secondary schools.
“A gateway drug is the first step in drug abuse. People don’t seem to realise the dangers associated with taking drugs. Once you get caught up in drugs, it is very difficult to get out of it.
“Drugs can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health. It has an impact on the HSE, families and communities. We see the impact first hand,” he said.
In some cases, Clare teenagers who have started taking drugs racked up huge debts, leaving their shocked parents to clear these debts.
Superintendent Colleran said some people who start out working as a drugs runner get caught up in drug abuse, which spirals into major debts to drug dealers.
“This brings law-abiding families into an environment they are not comfortable and shouldn’t find themselves in. A lot of people are afraid to come forward in this situation out of fear and embarrassment.
“We have the resources to challenge criminality. We do target people who engage in criminality. Anyone who feels under pressure or finds themselves in a difficult situation should not be embarrassed to seek help from the gardai who will not judge them and treat their situation in confidence.”
“When people find themselves in this situation, they have a tendency to catastrophise and think they are the only people to find themselves in this situation. We have heard it all before. It is only when people come forward they realise they are other people in this situation.
“We treat people confidentially and they should never feel embarrassed even if they find themselves inadvertently in relationships they shouldn’t be involved in.
“While we investigate crime, we appreciate the situation that people find themselves in. People should never feel afraid or embarrassed to come forward to gardai,” he stressed.