CILLÍN Hill, the venue just outside Kilkenny city, was a sea of blue recently when Garda Chief Superintendent Dominic Hayes hosted the first-ever awards night for Neighbourhood Watch groups in the Carlow/Kilkenny division.
More than 20 groups from Co Carlow were honoured at the ceremony, which was attended by the top brass of the local Garda division as well as politicians including minister of state John Paul Phelan, deputy Pat Deering, senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, local councillors and hundreds of people who take an active part in policing their own communities through their involvement with the Neighbourhood Watch and text alert schemes.
“This is the first time that we’ve hosted a night like this and we decided to do it to acknowledge the fantastic work done by these groups,” Chief Supt Hayes told The Nationalist. “We see the work that they do, in that they can help people to feel safer and can help us in our investigation of suspicious activities.
“Policing is a multi-agency task that needs to be tackled on a rural/urban level and a business and community level to make the division a safer place to live, work and socialise in,” he added.
Deputy Phelan said that the gardaí can make an impact on crime by using knowledge from ground level, while he also pointed out that 65,000 messages were sent via the text alert system in the division since it took off.
Margaret Quinn from Muintir na Tíre and the development officer for the text alert programme in the southeast told the packed hall that “vulnerability can hit anybody at any age” but it was vitally important that a community should take special care of the elderly.
Sergeant Peter McConnon, who masterminded an interactive map of each and every text alert group in the division, said that it would be used as a valuable resource for the gardaí. He stated that in 2013, “crime had been at an all-time high and that couldn’t be accepted.
“The crime figures have been drastically reduced, while text alerts have grown during that time. That’s not a coincidence,” he said.
He said there were plans to assign a garda to every townland in the district but urged people to encourage their family and friends to set up a text alert group in areas that didn’t have one.
Sgt McConnon also paid tribute to taxi drivers from counties Kilkenny and Carlow who are members of the taxi drivers’ texting scheme. The entire division, he said, is covered by vigilant drivers.
Sixty neighbourhood groups were then presented with awards by Chief Supt Hayes in acknowledgement of the work that they carry out.