At the launch of Abbeylands Neighbourhood Watch Scheme (back from left) Dainius Petrosius, Natasha Higgins, Vilius, Alice Claffey, Sgt John McWalter, Sgt Roger Nicholson, Bernadette Moloney, James McDonnell, Cllr Ken Glynn, Sebastian Pannackal and Bozena Pannackal (front) Domantas Petrosius, Yousef Alkhalifa, Wedyan Alkhalifa, Abdallah Alkhalifa, pictured with Amar Alkhalifa.

Abbeylands Residents Association ‘a shining light’ says senior garda

The people of the Abbeylands Residents Association are a shining light, Sgt John McWalter, the Crime Prevention Officer in the Westmeath Division of An Garda Síochána, has told them.

Speaking at the launch of Abbeylands Neighbourhood Watch Scheme on September 8 last, where a vibrant community spirit was evident, Sgt McWalter said: “Part of my remit is to set up Neighbourhood Watch and Community Alert schemes, working with Muintir na Tíre and community organisations – and a lot of that comes from us and the Community Policing Unit pushing communities to set up groups like this.

“But what is unusual about this group is that from the start, Abbeylands Residents Association began it themselves, and then brought us on board, which makes our job so much easier – and is a huge achievement.

“They are a shining light in that regard because there are not many large estates in the county that would do that.”

Also present at the launch were residents of estate and members of the residents association committee, Sgt Roger Nicholson from the Mullingar Community Policing Unit, and Cllr Ken Glynn, cathaoirleach, Westmeath County Council.

Sgt McWalter described the Community Text Alert and Neighbourhood Watch schemes as a service that should be utilised. “It’s not just a one-way system – we send out texts and you use the Text Alert and Neighbourhood Watch. When we send out texts, we don’t use people’s names or addresses or registration numbers of vehicles. We might put out texts saying ‘a white van with a WH plate’ but won’t give out personal information; nor will we give your information if you contact us if you are worried about something or want a text put out.

“If we don’t feel that it’s worth sending a text out, we won’t – if someone is doing it for the wrong reasons. So by all means, make sure you use your Text Alert and Neighbourhood Watch. It’s a great achievement for Abbeylands.”

Cllr Glynn thanked the Abbeylands Residents Association Committee for inviting him to the launch. “There has been little activity in the role due to Covid-19, so I was delighted when I got the call,” he said, and he paid tribute to Sgt McWalter and Sgt Nicholson, and commended the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme.

“I would have set up a lot of groups with your predecessor [as crime prevention officer] Sgt John Connolly through the years, and it really works. And as for Mullingar Community Policing Unit, I have them all driven mad,” he joked.

“When a service is there, and you are continually getting a service, you will keep going back; so, Roger, we are continuing to get the service. The text does work. When it comes out normally, I would post it on social media. On occasions, there were posts with 600 shares. That is huge and getting the message out and making the work of the gardaí that bit easier as the community are aware.

“It’s a fantastic achievement for Abbeylands Residents Association. Community spirit is the essence of what the residents association is about and something close to my heart, as a councillor.

“You have to take all the credit for this – you have done a great job. Make use of it and get a WhatsApp group up and running. What it also does, as we get into the dark months, and the difficult times we are in, is make people who are feeling a bit isolated that little bit safer. I have never seen the estate look so well. Give yourself a clap on the back,” he added.

Community Policing

Sgt Nicholson spoke about the Community Policing Unit. “Our role is a completely open role, insofar as we deal with every single issue under the sun,” he told the attendees. “It’s not just always people breaking the law – we deal with issues that may be between neighbours, friends or everything else.”

He said the residents were lucky to live in such a culturally diverse area where children from various countries happily play together on the green, and he commended the residents for their tremendous upkeep of the green and their homes.

“You have worked so hard on this and that makes everyone feel good and want to keep it this way. I like this estate and think it’s one of the areas where residents are doing a lot of work. Call us at any time that you have any issues. Well done to everyone!”

Members of Abbeylands Residents Association thanked all present for attending the launch of the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme. Appreciation and thanks were conveyed to Sgt McWalter, Sgt Nicholson and Cllr Glynn for their ongoing assistance and support and, in particular, their help in getting the Neighbourhood Watch operational. Tribute was also paid to the work and support of Community Gardaí, Garda Fiona Walsh and Garda Camilla Corbett, both of whom have had an active policing role in the estate but were unable to attend the launch.

The newly established Abbeylands Residents Association Facebook page will complement the Community Text Alert scheme by enabling alerts to be posted more widely.

Abbeylands Residents Association also wishes to thank the staff in the various departments of Westmeath County Council for their continuing support and much appreciated assistance. The support of local businesses, Nixon’s Florists, Aldi and Tesco supermarkets and Vambeck Signs is also acknowledged.