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Thousands 'Like' Garda's crime-fighting Facebook page

Meath’s Crime Prevention Officer has set up a Facebook page dedicated to crime in the county – and it has proven to be extremely popular.

Meath Crime Prevention
Meath Crime Prevention
Image: Facebook

A FACEBOOK PAGE set up by a garda in Co Meath is proving to be a popular force in online crime fighting.

Garda Dean Kerins told TheJournal.ie that he initially set up the Meath Crime Prevention page – which has more than 3,220 ‘Likes’ – to promote an event he was doing, but it soon took off beyond all expectations.

Crime prevention

Garda Kerins also runs a webtext service for local businesses, as well as a weekly business email service where he informs hundreds of businesses about general crime in Meath.

The Facebook page gives general crime prevention advice and information about crime-related happenings in the county. Kerins has been Crime Prevention Officer for Co Meath since 2009, having spent 18  years as a detective, and it is this background that has been essential to his current job.

It’s a huge benefit to be able to think the way the criminals are thinking.
Their motives are still the same – it is cash.

Kerins organised a home security exhibition last September, after a spate of burglaries, and started the Facebook page to advertise it.

“We started using it by putting crime bits and pieces, only relative to Co Meath itself, on it” he said. Since then, it has “exploded” it popularity. It reaches around 50,000 people weekly.

It certainly has opened up an extra line of communication with people, a line of interaction in the county people wouldn’t have had before. They have direct contact with me.

This has proved to be very effective, with people really appreciating and reacting to the ability to have contact with their local garda. “A lot of people don’t know who their local garda is,” he said. “Now a lot of people would text me looking for information.”

People appreciate getting a response quickly, and visit the page asking for information or clarification on an event or on news they have heard.

“If I don’t know about it, I’ll tell them,” said Kerins. “If it’s something sensitive I’ll tell them to ring me. That facility has certainly helped a lot of people, and encouraged more people to make contact with me than they ever would have done before.”

Comments

When it comes to the comments, people don’t hold back. “They are very honest, they are very realistic,” said Kerins. “We are still managing to ensure the language used is correct”. He appreciates the fact it is an open forum, where people are “genuine and honest” – and doesn’t even mind the occasional bad language, within reason.

It adds to the honesty and realistic-ness. People are genuine, they will air their views. I would allow on it what I would accept at a meeting when giving a crime prevention talk.

“All people want is a bit of feedback,” he said. “If I don’t know something, I have no difficulty saying I don’t know it.”

It certainly makes people alert and more aware about what is happening in their areas. The more and more people that know that it exists, [the better]. Before, they wouldn’t have known what was happening in their parish. They wouldn’t believe these sort of things are happening.

Crime prevention

Garda Nerin’s job involves giving crime prevention talks to businesses, or individuals who want to improve security at their home or premises.

He also gives information on farm safety and security to organisations like the ICA and the IFA, and shooting bodies, some of whom were targeted in recent years by criminals looking to steal firearms.

“When you go to give a crime prevention talk, everyone will know what to do. But they won’t [do it] until they are affected. That’s the usual story,” he said.

Some people find themselves lulled into a false sense of security, while others wouldn’t be aware of what security systems are out there. “It all breaks down to trying to ensure the pay off for [the criminals] is reduced,” he said. “Think like a criminal sometimes to try and beat them too.”

Kerins really enjoys running the successful Facebook page, but said he is aware that it wouldn’t work in every county. For Co Meath, however, it is certainly proving to be an effective way of building communication between the gardaí and locals, and keeping people’s minds on crime prevention.

“It just seems to be getting more and more popular – people are getting information they never would have gotten before.

Read: 12 per cent increase in crime victims contacting helpline>

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