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Countywide strategy on CCTV sought to tackle rural crime

Thursday, 7 December 2017

IT makes no sense not to have a "county wide approach" to tackling rural crime though a strategic policy on the planning, co-ordination, monitoring and future maintenance of Offaly's CCTV system, to be led by the local authority and An Garda Siochana.
RENUA councillor, John Leahy made these comments when he spoke to the Tribune last week about a proposal, he put forward at a recent meeting of the Offaly Community Neighbourhood Watch where he called for a county wide strategic policy for Offaly's CCTV system. According to Cllr Leahy, the proposal received the "unanimous support" from all the community groups present and he had since written to the Chief Superintendent and the Chief Executive of Offaly County Council to inform them of the proposal.
Explaining the proposal further, Cllr Leahy said the role of the local authority and An Garda Siochana would include the planning, co-ordination, monitoring, future maintenance and upgrade of a county wide CCTV system. "This would ensure all the strategic points in Offaly would be monitored. This would also ensure that numerous community groups wouldn't have to go through the rigorous application process, which is currently off-putting to groups. It makes no sense not to have a county wide approach to tackling rural crime through CCTV."
Speaking to the Tribune, the RENUA councillor outlined how he can currently see a "massive phenomenon" where every community group is "thinking that CCTV is going to be the answer to rural crime. But, it's only going to assist the Gardai in some shape or form in tracking and monitoring actually what is happening. It's not going to be the 'be all and the end all' but it will help."
Looking to the example of the defibrillators a number of years ago, Cllr Leahy pointed out there was a "massive phenomenon" to get defibrillators all over the country. "Every village and town that you go into, there's now two or three defibrillators. But if you go back into the small communities, I guarantee you there's a high proportion of them that aren't maintained or are out of date and if you wanted to use them in the morning, they probably wouldn't even know the key code to get into the box."
"Because when you go for the replacement and maintenance of equipment, it starts to cost you [the committees] money. My fear is now we are going to have a mini NAMA all over the country in ten years time with a whole load of cameras on poles that aren't going to be workable because firstly, technology changes, and secondly if they are broken, who is going to replace them. There's a grant at the moment but it's very cumbersome in terms of drawing it down."
Talking about his proposal, the Kilcormac based councillor said he was now looking for the backing of the members of Offaly County Council and an Garda Siochana on this issue. "From an Offaly perspective, they [OCC and An Garda Siochana] should decide where the cameras are going and where they are strategically placed regardless of whether there's a community group set up or not. We should have a county wide application, instead of having five or six areas making applications and then we should go to the Minister for Justice and say instead of going with ten different applications, we are going with one application from Offaly County Council in conjunction with An Garda Siochana. We should say this is where we are putting the cameras and this is what they are costing. I believe this is what needs to happen so that when a camera breaks at some stage, that it doesn't fall back onto the community group."
Continuing, Cllr Leahy re-iterated that technology is changing so rapidly and cameras are going to go out of date and even though, there's currently a grant system in place now, he noted there was no grant system in place to replace or maintain CCTV cameras. "And, instead of 400 cameras being put by various community groups, we might only need 200 strategically placed around the county that are properly monitored," he concluded.

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