Rathkeale gets max­i­mum polic­ing to deal with Christ­mas ‘may­hem’

■ Polic­ing plan in­cludes drug swoops, de­ploy­ment of de­tec­tives, and dogs as thou­sands of Trav­ellers ar­rive

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - David Raleigh

Rathkeale may well be the most po­liced town in the world over the Christ­mas pe­riod, with gar­daí plan­ning to de­ploy mas­sive re­sources to cope with an in­flux of vis­it­ing Trav­ellers from next month.

The polic­ing plan will see armed gar­daí de­ployed to the town over the Christ­mas and New Year pe­riod.

The HSE has con­firmed it will pro­vide a “triage clinic” in the town from De­cem­ber 20 to Jan­uary 4.

Mem­bers of the Garda Divi­sional Drug Unit, Garda Divi­sional Dog Unit, and de­tec­tive units, will have a ded­i­cated pres­ence in the town.

CCTV cam­eras will re­lay live im­ages to a cen­tralised con­trol room in Lim­er­ick City op­er­ated by gar­daí.

A ju­ve­nile li­ai­son garda will also be based in the town and hol­i­day court sit­tings will also be pro­vided, if re­quired.

Dur­ing the fes­tive pe­riod, the town’s pop­u­la­tion can swell by up to 3,000.

Lo­cal sources said “gen­eral may­hem” is caused over Christ­mas, and that vis­it­ing Trav­ellers en­gage in rac­ing one an­other through the streets in high-pow­ered ve­hi­cles.

“I’m liv­ing just out­side the town and it be­comes an ab­so­lute rodeo at Christ­mas,” said a source.

“If you’re driv­ing along the N69, they will pull up along­side both sides of you and they treat it like a race.

“It’s manic at the best of times on a Fri­day night, but at Christ­mas, it’s like the Wild West,” they added.

Speed ramps have been placed through­out the town by Lim­er­ick City and County Coun­cil in an ef­fort to curb con­cerns over road traf­fic is­sues.

Gar­daí said their polic­ing plan is a di­rect re­sponse to con­cerns raised by the lo­cal set­tled and lo­cal Trav­eller pop­u­la­tion.

Last year’s op­er­a­tion cost €22,000 and was “very suc­cess­ful”, gar­daí say. This year’s plan is be­ing headed up by Cork na­tive, District Su­per­in­ten­dent John Deasy, and District In­spec­tor Alan Cullen. The op­er­a­tion will tar­get an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour, dan­ger­ous driv­ing, lit­ter­ing and drug of­fences, they said.

Gar­daí will main­tain a pres­ence at lo­cal schools, dur­ing pupil drop-off and pick-up times. A Garda per­son­nel car­rier will also be based in the town on a 24/7 ba­sis.

“Our plan will have a four-pronged ap­proach deal­ing with an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour; roads polic­ing and en­force­ment; crim­i­nal­ity; and drug ac­tiv­ity,” said Supt Deasy.

“Our ob­jec­tive is got make sure ev­ery part of the com­mu­nity in Rathkeale is able to go about their busi­ness with­out be­ing in­ter­fered with. There have been is­sues raised in re­la­tion to anti-so­cial be­hav­iour and road polic­ing is­sues with young of­fend­ers.”

A mam­moth po­lice plan is be­ing put in place in Rathkeale for the Christ­mas pe­riod.

Thou­sands of mem­bers of the Trav­el­ling Com­mu­nity will ar­rive in the Co Lim­er­ick town from next month.

District In­spec­tor Alan Cullen said a re­view of the Garda polic­ing plan was car­ried out in March 2017 by an in­de­pen­dent ar­bi­tra­tor who li­aised with lo­cal set­tled and Trav­eller com­mu­ni­ties to “come up with a so­lu­tion” to con­cerns raised over the swell in the Trav­eller pop­u­la­tion over the fes­tive pe­riod.

“Last year, we de­cided to de­ploy our re­sources to deal with the prob­lems di­rectly.

“We ap­plied last year for a sep­a­rate bud­get for the polic­ing of the (West Lim­er­ick) district over the Christ­mas pe­riod (and) 95% of it was spent in Rathkeale. Over­all, we would have in­creased su­per­vi­sion through­out the Christ­mas pe­riod,” he said.

Young peo­ple driv­ing high­pow­ered cars in the town has been a prob­lem over the pe­riod in ques­tion.

“Some­thing we have de­cided to do (this year) is send gar­daí into the schools in ad­vance of the Christ­mas pe­riod, to talk to the young peo­ple, and ex­plain to them about the ef­fects of anti-so­cial be­hav­iour… and the dan­gers of un­der­age peo­ple driv­ing, and so forth,” he added.

The Divi­sional Drug Unit based in Lim­er­ick City will be present in Rathkeale, Insp Cullen said, and will carry out “swoops around the town search­ing peo­ple for il­licit drug use”.

“Our armed sup­port unit, our de­tec­tive branch, our de­tec­tives from New­cas­tle West and from Lim­er­ick City” will also be de­ployed to the town.

Su­per­in­ten­dent John Deasy, who is head­ing up this year’s op­er­a­tion in Rathkeale, said: “We are ob­tain­ing a per­son­nel car­rier from one of the other garda di­vi­sions, so that it’s avail­able on a 24/7 ba­sis within the Rathkeale area. We will have a mo­tor­cy­cle at our dis­posal and we will also have (bi­cy­cles) avail­able to us to get (gar­daí) around quickly.

“Our own District Traf­fic Unit will be based in Rathkeale for the du­ra­tion of the polic­ing op­er­a­tion; aug­mented by the (city-based) Divi­sional Traf­fic Unit, who will come out and set up dif­fer­ent op­er­a­tions. We will use the ASU (armed sup­port unit). They will be in the area dur­ing the course of the op­er­a­tion. The (city-based) Divi­sional Dog Unit will come out and set up spe­cific tar­geted pa­trols.”

He said they have al­ready en­gaged with lo­cal pubs and fast-food out­lets re­mind­ing them to obey the liquor li­cens­ing laws “to get peo­ple out of the main town of Rathkeale” at night.

The in­flux of high-pow­ered cars is “a prob­lem”, gar­daí ac­knowl­edged.

“The vol­ume of ve­hi­cles through the main street in­creases sig­nif­i­cantly. (The speed ramps) are try­ing to slow traf­fic down for the safety of pedes­tri­ans,” Supt Deasy said.

De­spite ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy and CCTV cam­eras which will re­lay live footage from Rathkeale to gar­daí in Lim­er­ick City, he said the Rathkeale pop­u­la­tion must be the eyes and ears of gar­daí so gar­daí can prop­erly ad­dress their con­cerns.

“This is about the com­mu­nity buy­ing into what we are try­ing to achieve, which is a peace­ful Christ­mas for ev­ery­one.”

Roads polic­ing is part of a ‘four-pronged ap­proach’ gar­daí are tak­ing.

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