Leading politicians, local authority chiefs, and a Garda chief superintendent have defended Waterford’s reputation in the light of the recent harassment of residents in the city.
In a letter issued via the Waterford City and County Council website and sent to national newspapers, the 10 civic leaders described the city as relatively crime-free and a safe place to live.
It expressed concern that widespread media coverage and commentary following incidents that occurred on the nights of October 25 and 26 is harmful to Waterford’s reputation.
On October 25, almost 200 people gathered outside the home of a Roma family and staged a protest in which windows were smashed and doors broken down. Some family members had to be evacuated from their homes as a result. Gardaí were criticised for their initially small response.
The following night, a smaller group kicked at the doors of a building they believed to house members of the Roma community.
The letter was jointly signed by James Tobin, mayor of Waterford City and County; Lola O’Sullivan, mayor of Waterford Metropolitan District; junior environment minister Paudie Coffey; & TDs Ciara Conway, John Deasy, and John Halligan; senators David Cullinane and Maurice Cummins; Michael Walsh, CEO of Waterford City and County Council; and Garda Chief Superintendent Pat Murphy.
The statement reads: “Waterford is a safe and welcoming city. It has the lowest rate of recorded crime of any comparably sized urban centre in the country and does not have a particularly widespread problem of street crime and anti-social behaviour as some commentary around the recent night-time assemblies has suggested.
“Over the last two years, reported crimes against the person and public disorder in Waterford city centre continued to decline with all reported crimes against the person decreasing by 18% to 293 so far in 2014 compared with the same period last year and a detection rate of 59%. All reported crimes are fully investigated, with a detection rate in Waterford of 75% for violent crime — well ahead of the national average.
“An Garda Síochána work with communities to protect the quality of life in Waterford with the prevention and detection of crime and anti-social behaviour among their core functions.
“There can be no tolerance for people who take the law into their own hands or target any particular group who they allege are involved in wrongdoing. Aside from the risk of harm being done and crimes being committed, there is also a real danger of prejudicing future prosecutions.
“Gardaí must continue to be supported by all to do their work in policing Waterford fairly, effectively and transparently. Without fear or favour, they will continue to work hard at preventing and investigating all types of crime, including racial discrimination.
“Waterford’s national reputation has been damaged by recent events generating intense print, broadcast and online media focus. This is especially disappointing as economic recovery begins to take hold locally and Waterford is promoted with growing success as a destination for investors and visitors alike.”
The incidents led to a counter-demonstration in the city on October 29, organised by Waterford Against Racism which condemned any attempt to tackle local problems through vigilantism.
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