RESIDENTS IN CALLAN have started a petition calling for a greater number of Gardaí on the streets of the town following a spate of recent break-ins and robberies.
A shop in the town had its door kicked in and a quantity of cash stolen on Sunday morning – the latest in a series of violent incidents in the Kilkenny town.
The petition was circulated after a barber on Mill Street in the town was held at knife-point last week. Two homes nearby were also broken into, while other properties have been ransacked. One of the victims of a robbery had recently celebrated a landmark birthday and had gifts – including a quantity of cash – stolen from his house, while another victim had a delivery of winter fuel stolen just moments after it had been delivered.
Furthermore, one publican had a sizeable quantity of money taken from his till when a customer walked behind his bar and helped himself to the takings. When the thief was discovered, the culprit was identified on the bar’s CCTV systems; some of the cash has since been recovered, and Gardaí were informed of the incident.
All of the recent incidents in the town suggest a local involvement, as the crimes appear to have been carried out by individuals who were familiar with their targets.
A publican based in the town, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Kilkenny People that the current Gardaí stationed in the town were managing as best they could given the current circumstances, but claimed that the local force were severely under-resourced.
“You can’t really blame the Gardaí because the numbers aren’t there,” he said. “Obviously we could do with a lot more Gardaí on the streets – but I don’t think we’re going to get them. The reason break-ins only seem to happen at certain times is because people know when they’re going to be on duty.” This view was echoed by a number of local residents speaking to this paper.
The publican added that while he did not feel especially vulnerable in light of recent attacks, he lamented the security-conscious culture that the break-ins had brought about. “You’re inclined to watch every customer coming through the door to see if he’s a potential thief coming in here.”
“If you’re anywhere with a till that has money, or where you’re dealing with cash or taking money over the counter, you’re always a target,” he concluded.
Local councillor Tom Maher (FG) said he had already signed the petition being circulated, adding that he had been campaigning for a greater number of Gardaí in the town for several years.
“We had our first meeting of the County Council and Garda committee about seven weeks ago, and I at that stage raised my concerns with the Superintendent about the lack of a Sergeant, and the lack of a real Garda presence in the town,” said Maher, adding that he was “yet to hear anything back from the Super” on the topic.
The councillor described himself “extremely disappointed” with the recent crime outbreak, “but I have to say I’m not surprised – I’ve flagged it [the Garda shortage] for years and years. When we had half the population, we had twice the number of Gardaí. It can’t be tolerated for what is Kilkenny’s second-biggest town.”
Cllr Maher called on the Minister for Justice to resolve the personnel shortage in Callan as a matter of urgency, saying: “If we don’t get a proper Garda presence on the street, things are going to get worse. These things just don’t go away.”
In the meantime, the councillor advised residents to be wary of strangers seen loitering in residential areas.
“There are people out there prepared to carry out the actions we’ve seen in recent months and weeks,” he said, “and unfortunately if there’s no Garda in the town you could be waiting a long time for a squad car.”
When contacted by the Kilkenny People, the sergeant on duty at Callan Garda Station declined to comment on the current staffing levels at the station.