Businesses in towns and villages in Co Galway already under pressure from the recession are being repeatedly targeted by drug users, many just out of prison.
Several shop owners, publicans and other business people report “consistent theft by confirmed drug addicts” who seem not to care if their identity is known by either the business people or the Gardaí, says local Fine Gael TD Paul Connaughton. He raised the issue in the Dail recently.
“This problem is cropping up more and more in our towns and villages. I have been informed by a number of business people that their businesses have been targeted several times. They are fed up to the teeth being robbed, usually by people who are known to them and the Gardai.
“Even when the Gardaí apprehend these people and secure a court conviction against them the person concerned is often released from jail and back on the streets before the court proceedings are recorded in that week’s daily newspaper.
“It is very frightening for the victims concerned as they operate in a menacing way. One shop owner told me he left two girls in charge of his shop while he went out and a person came in, who was just out of jail, and made off with €500. The robbery frightened the living daylights out of the shop assistants.”
Deputy Connaughton believes community service would be far more beneficial than a prison sentence for this type of offender.
“It now appears that offenders are willing to commit the offence confident in the knowledge that they will be released within the week. Involvement in a community based work programme together with some kind of rehabilitation would surely be better than a prison term which they do not serve.”