THE level of thefts of copper and scrap metal was highlighted by Chief Superintendent Frank Moore at Monday’s meeting of the Offaly County Council Joint Policing Committee.
The meeting was told that overall crime in the county was down 11.9% last year, compared to 2009, with a fall of 22% in the Birr area and 7% in the Tullamore district.
Burglaries were up 13.4% in Offaly, but were down 7% in the Birr area, and up 21% in the Tullamore area.
The county had four aggravated assaults last year, while robberies from an establishment (eg bank or supermarket) were up 46.2%.
Robberies from the person were up marginally (by two in Birr, three in Tullamore), while thefts were down 2.1% (up 4% in Birr, down 5% in Tullamore).
Thefts from shops were down 4.1%, while those from the person were down 40% and those from the vehicle were down 31.6%.
Other thefts were down 2.4% (this includes thefts of heating oil, garden gates, agricultural diesel, garden sheds and copper cylinders).
Fraud is down 1.3%, while unlawful taking of vehicles is down 20.8%.
Public order offences are down 9%, while assaults causing harm are down 14.6%.
Chief Superintendent Moore added that there were 599 drug searches in Offaly last year, while four headshops were closed.
He outlined how Gardaí visited post offices on Tuesdays and Thursdays to meet pensioners and ensure they were not hassled.
Cllr Peter Ormond asked Ms Niamh Dowler, Community Support Worker, to inform voluntary groups of the theft of copper piping.
Cllr Danny Owens said that there had been an epidemic of robberies of copper and metal. He said that the statistics did not tell the whole story - he gave the example of how he himself had not reported the theft of a gate.
Cllr Sinead Moylan-Ryan sought a Garda motorbike for Banagher. Cllr John Leahy felt that recycling plants should be made more accountable for copper and scrap metal.
Mr Jody Gunning highlighted the theft of car batteries for scrap, and said that many did not know how to handle pedestrian crossings.
Superintendent John Moloney said that travelling criminals were generally responsible for robberies of copper and metal, but not in all cases. Most break-ins in his district were in rural areas, with very few in Tullamore, though Edenderry had some because of a heroin problem.
Cllr Sinead Dooley wondered if households could put ID marks on cylinders. Superintendent Moloney replied that while this was a help, the items were usually disposed of before being reported stolen.
Cllr Percy Clendennen highlighted a robbery at his local GAA club in Kinnitty. He also referred to how the local officer in the village had been out sick for some time.
In reply, Chief Superintendent Moore said that eighteen Gardaí have not been replaced because of the recruitment embargo; this is in addition to a sergeant, an inspector and a superintendent.