Cork’s chief garda has said he does not accept that some people have a fear of going into the city centre, despite crime figures increasing since last year, when the country was in lockdown.
Chief Superintendent Tom Myers, who is in charge of policing in the Cork City Garda Division, told the June quarterly meeting of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC) that “the city is in a good place at the moment”.
The Chief Superintendent’s remarks came despite figures showing that crimes against the person in Cork City are up 62% on 2021, with rapes and sexual assaults up 34% on last year, while crimes against property are up 76%.
Criminal damage is up 26% on this time last year, while public order offences are up 24%.
Chief Supt Myers cautioned that the current figures related to the first five months of 2022 and were compared to the figures for the first five months of last year, when, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the country was in varying levels of lockdown.
In the first five months of 2022, the city had 129 assaults causing harm, while in the same period in 2021, it had 66, representing an increase of 95%.
In the first two quarters of 2022, Cork had 28 rapes, a 56% increase on 18 in the same period of 2021.
There were 156 vehicle thefts in the first five months of 2022, an increase of 164% on the 59 thefts during the same period in 2021.
Responding to Fine Gael senator Jerry Buttimer, who raised concerns about Garda numbers, Chief Supt Myers said there were currently 591 gardaí stationed in the city, which was down 15 on 2019.
Mr Buttimer questioned the chief superintendent on the model of policing being employed in the city centre, adding: “There are people now who are saying to us they won’t go into the city, and that’s wrong, because we have a wonderful city.”
Chief Supt Myers defended the current model of policing for the city, saying that it had been in place for four years and he believed it was working quite well.
“I don’t accept what you’re saying to me, Senator Buttimer, about this fear about going into the city centre — I don’t see what people are afraid of,” said Chief Supt Myers.
“I think the city is in a good place at the moment, you can walk over there, see people eating out and socialising, with a bit of sunshine it’s even better.
“I know we are tackling a lot of the tidying up of the city, beggars, and anti-social behaviour.
“The night-time economy seems to be going quite well, and we have gardaí stationed strategically in the city, close to nightclubs, and that seems to be working quite well, and the amount of offences that have been detected are low, so I think the city is in quite a good place and I would encourage everybody that is on the JPC to put the message out that the city is safe and to encourage people to come in and to enjoy the city.”
Commenting to The Echo on the perception that some people might be afraid to come into the city centre, Fianna Fáil councillor Colm Kelleher, the mayor of Cork City, said that two public brawls in recent weeks may have fed into a notion that the city centre was unsafe, but that perception “just doesn’t stack up” with official figures.
“I would agree with the Chief Superintendent that Cork is a safe place, and gardaí are doing the best they can with the resources they have,” he said.
“But I would reiterate that we need more guards in Cork, and there is an open invitation to [Garda] Commissioner Drew Harris to address a meeting of the JPC.”