KERRY’S TOP COP: ‘WE ARE LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE’
Kerry Chief Superintendent Tom Myers sits down with Sinead Kelleher to discuss some of the most pressing crimes and trends in the county
A DEDICATED sex crimes unit, an increase in garda numbers, key successes targetting drug-dealing and the securing of hefty resources to refocus on some of the county’s most puzzling and infamous crimes.
Kerry Chief Superintendent Tom Myers can reasonably look to his 18-month tenure at the helm of An Garda Síochána in Kerry with some sense of making progress.
He inherited a service slashed to ribbons by one austerity budget after another, as well as a rank-and-file force that was left as demoralised here by national controversies and cuts to working conditions as in every other county.
A tough cop steeped in the war against drugs in Cork through his stint at the top of the city’s drugs division, he hit the ground running; gunning for drink-driving from the get go as well as the county’s drug-dealers.
His tenure will also be linked with Kerry’s most infamous cold case - the Kerry Babies; sensationally reopened earlier this year in an investigation he is ‘personally’ overseeing, as he told The Kerryman.
His time at the top will also see the creation of a new unit exclusively focused on bringing sex predato tors justice.
A key initiative for Chief Supt Myers is the rolling out of the new Divisional Protected Services Unit (DPSU) to investigate specialised crime types, including sexual crime, human trafficking, child abuse and domestic abuse.
It is hoped this unit will come as a huge boost for policing in Kerry with up to 12 highly-trained gardaí working on serious crimes.
“We know, working closely with the Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, that there are cases out there that are not being reported,” Chief Supt Myers told The Kerryman.
“We need to get to those people, particularly the vulnerable children. We are looking forward and we are optimistic that the DPSU will begin operating by the end of this year.
“That will be another big investment as we will have a dozen members in that working with Tusla and the Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre.”
He said that while it may not seem like an area of massive concern to ordinary people going about their daily business, a huge volume of this crime does exist in Kerry.
He points to prostitution as one of the many areas that will come under the DPSU’s gaze:
“All you have to do is log online under Kerry and you will see the amount of ladies there, some by choice, others not. We have to be proactive in policing all of these areas, not reactive.”
One of his main priorities coming into the job was drink-driving - at a time when the crime is increasing in Kerry in a very worrying development.
The most recent figures show that 119 drink driving detections in Kerry this year alone.
“It is really frustrating the amount of people driving with excess alcohol in the county. It never ceases to amaze me that in this day and age people are still drinking and getting behind the wheel of a car.”
He said that drink-driving in Kerry ranks high in comparison to other areas and he is determined to crack-down on this and reduce the trend. The statistics show that it is younger drivers who are getting behind the wheel.
“Surely be to God if you are going to drink you can take someone with you that isn’t drinking or get a taxi, there are options.”
“The consequences of being put off the road are considerable, whether it is dropping the kids to the school or to football. Then there are the insurance issues.”
He is once again issuing a warning to the people of Kerry “If you drink and drive you will be caught”.
Seven new gardaí have been appointed to the renamed Roads Policing Unit, formerly the traffic corps, and there will be more checkpoints as a result.
He warned that this year more gardaí will be evident at festivals across Kerry to combat drink driving including Puck Fair, The Rose of Tralee and Listowel Races.
He said while drink-driving in a key priority so too are seatbelts, mobile phones and speeding and the roads policing unit are going to be concentrating on these in the coming months.
Drugs are another key challenge for Supt Myers who has spent much of his career working on national and international drug investigations - leading the Cork city drug squad for seven years.
“I gave an undertaking when I came down here that drugs would be one of my priorities and we have a fierce commitment to tackling drugs.”
Cannabis remains the “number one drug of choice in Kerry” but concerns also centre on heroin and cocaine availability at a time when cocaine use is surging.
The Kerry Divisional Drugs Unit is intent on halting supply of these serious drugs and the statistics are encouraging in this regard.
However, as always more needs to be done and the Killarney Drugs Unit is now set to get more manpower in a bid to tackle drugs in South Kerry.
“Drugs are the number one scourge in Kerry as they are in every county.”
In Tralee, drug dealers are known to use lanes and out-of-theway walks to avoid gardaí, but such tactics by dealers are being monitored says Supt Myers.
He told The Kerryman that gardaí are focusing intently on the Riverwalk to the rear of the Fels Point area after local recently voiced concerns about activity there.
Indeed, the community-focus of the gardaí is a central tenet of Supt Myers’ vision; listening to what people have to say and responding appropriately.
The relationship between the public and the gardai is vital to fighting crime across Kerry, he says. Supt Myers hopes to continue to build on this relationship and to try to reduce crime in the county. That is ultimately his goal as Chief Superintendent of Kerry.
“I must say the community in Kerry is second to none. We, the gardaí, are not perfect I am sure, but I want the people of Kerry to support us and to have confidence in us,” said Supt Myers.
“The people of Kerry are the eyes and ears of the county and I want people to give us information.”
The recent Cahersiveen crime furore is an example of this, with hundreds calling for more gardaí in the town at a public meeting.
He said this public support helps garda know what is going on the area.
“I want to thank the people of Cahersiveen in particular for their support. I am listening to them and we are doing everything we can to resolve the situation,” he told The Kerryman this week.
He said that they are looking at the resources in the area and that the Killarney District, which Cahersiveen, falls under has now received extra gardaí, which will help with policing in that district.
Five extra gardaí were appointed to the Killarney District last Friday.
“There are issues in Killarney at the moment and they need more support. The next time it will be somewhere else.”
“It never ceases to amaze me that in this day and age people drink and get behind the wheel of a car’
Kerry Chief Superintendent Tom Myers.