Online scams and drugs hot topics at County Cork crime meeting 

Castletownroche based Independent Cllr Frank Roche said fuel such as diesel and home heating oil in rural areas is being stolen but people not reporting it enough.
Online scams and drugs hot topics at County Cork crime meeting 

Danny Crowley of Youthreach Bantry said thefts from older people in scam calls are still taking place in west Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Rural crime, online scams, and the spread of drugs into villages around Cork topped the agenda at this month’s Joint Policing Committee which brings together local gardaí and politicians.

Castletownroche based Independent Cllr Frank Roche said fuel such as diesel and home heating oil in rural areas is being stolen but people not reporting it enough.

“In my locality there’s an awful lot of it being stolen,” he said. Many people are not reporting it because they feel that the gardaí can’t do anything about it. He encouraged more people to report it as a preventative measure. “At least if they report it, it might make people lock their tanks and be more conscious of it being stolen,” he said.

In Summer, “you can’t even leave a tractor out in a field anymore by night because when you come back in the morning, there are these little holes where they can suck the diesel out of them in minutes. It’s an awful problem,” he said.

Danny Crowley of Youthreach Bantry said thefts from older people in scam calls are still taking place in west Cork. “I know from living on the Beara peninsula, a lot of our older population seem to be targeted an awful lot by these scam calls.” 

Fianna Fáil Cllr Michael Looney said illegal drugs are spreading from the cities into towns and villages. “It’s after going from the villages out into rural Ireland now. Is there any way of slowing that down? We were perfectly clean years ago. We’re not now. The interest we have is in protecting our youth. In rural areas now, there are a lot of drugs transactions.” It’s not easy to detect them, but there is a big influence from Cork city all the way back to Kerry. “It’s the main feedway for them,” said Mr Looney. People are afraid to report it for fear “these thugs” will come back at them.

Independent Cllr Karen Coakley said many people are too embarrassed to report being a victim of online scams. Ms Coakley said she has no problem putting it up on social media warning about the latest scam. If more people reported it, the figures would be much higher. “If you are scammed, don’t be afraid, don’t feel embarrassed,” she said. “It’s about protecting the older people.” 

Chief Supt Vincent O’Sullivan emphasised the importance of reporting crime as vital. “As a manager, I need to know where to have my resources. We have a better chance of catching them if we know what’s going on, and if we know where people are being victims of thefts.” Mr O’Sullivan said no crime is too small to report.

In west Cork, there is a downward trend in online fraud crimes. “Some of that is down to Covid. There aren’t as many people at home online,” said Garda O’Sullivan, but also that victims aren’t reporting them as much anymore. “I was delighted to see the banks advising people,” he said. The first reaction should be to try and stop the transaction with the bank, but the second action should be reporting it to Gardaí.

“If we know who is involved, we can take steps. We can use our resources to tackle the problem.” There is no shame in being caught in an online scam, he said. “These are professional people who are doing it. They are using very advanced methodologies. They are working off of scripts. They are working from systems that have worked in the past,” said Garda O’Sullivan.

Internationally, the gangs are highly organised, working in shift patterns, and using it as a business. “They will keep going until they find that weakness to get at your money. Please report your crimes,” said Garda O’Sullivan. Their schemes are “clever and well thought out and it’s very easy to get caught out.” 

Operation Tara was launched to tackle the drugs problem, said Garda O’Sullivan. New technology and greater connectivity have made it easier for drug dealers to get drugs into rural areas.

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