More than one-fifth of farm families say they or a member of their immediate family has been the victim of crime in the last 12 months, while almost 60% of respondents in an opinion poll do not believe there is an adequate Garda presence in rural Ireland.
The findings of the Irish Examiner/ICMSA opinion poll will increase the focus on rural crime, which gardaí believe has become a bigger issue in recent years.
Just last month gardaí, Crimestoppers, the IFA, and DoneDeal launched a campaign aimed at combating farm-related thefts.
According to the Central Statistics Office, since 2010 more than 28,642 farm- related crime incidents have been reported to gardaí, including more than 2,000 thefts every year.
The results of the Irish Examiner/ICMSA poll reveal that 21% of respondents were either directly impacted by crime in the past year or had an immediate family member who experienced crime. However, 60% of respondents said they had no experience of crime.
The opinion poll shows that 30% of respondents believe there is sufficient visible garda presence in rural Ireland, while 58% disagree.
However, comparing the figures with responses to a similar question asked in this newspaper’s poll in 2014, the number of people who “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree” has grown — for example, 36% strongly disagree that there is a sufficiently visible garda presence in rural areas.
The poll results also show that younger people are more likely to be satisfied with the visibility of gardaí in country areas, while older people, and those aged over 65 in particular, are strongly of the view that more gardaí are needed.
Louise Lennon, policy and communications officer with Irish Rural Link, said: “We are aware of rural crime having increased in recent years.”
She said the closure of garda stations in some rural areas has fed the perception that gardaí are not as visible as might have been the case in previous decades.
“A lot of rural crimes go under-reported because of a loss of confidence in the system,” she said.
John Comer, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, said: “Meaningful Garda presence in rural communities and some exemplary sentences for criminals who prey on farms and isolated elderly rural dwellers would go a long way fast to meeting this challenge.”
Mr Comer said that there were swathes of the country where services that had taken a century to roll-out had disappeared in about a decade.
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