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Topical Issue Debate - Garda Resources

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this issue and I thank the Minister of State for coming into the House.

I attended a meeting yesterday of the County Galway Joint Policing Committee at which public representatives, community groups and gardaí were present. There was much comment at the meeting about the fact that some progress had been made in terms of the drop in the number of assaults against persons. Many congratulations were expressed on the success in the battle against drugs, and also on the reduction in gold theft, which is a big issue in rural Ireland. However, a great deal of concern was expressed about the figures which show that crime had increased in certain areas. For example, there were 828 incidents in the first two months of the year. There were 81 burglaries, which is an increase of 17% in January and February of this year.

I raise that issue because there is a great deal of concern now that many of the people who are breaking into houses are doing so in broad daylight. They do not seem to care who is in the house. These burglaries are taking place when parents are bringing children to school or collecting them after school.

I hope that a number of issues I raise might be taken on board by the Minister of State and brought to the attention of the Minister for Justice and Equality. I refer in particular to the need for extra gardaí. Recently, we have lost a number of gardaí in the Ballinasloe area. We have also lost Garda cars, and I hope the question of extra Garda cars could be considered.

I refer to north-east Galway and places like Glenamaddy, which is in the Tuam district, Moylough, Mountbellew, Newbridge, Ballinamore Bridge and Ballygar, and Ballyfarnan and Dysart in south Roscommon where these break-ins have taken place. That has led to many public meetings being held, particularly in Newbridge where over 300 people attended a number of meetings. They have called for extra gardaí and that some of the 40 new cars that are being purchased would be available in the north-east Galway area.

There is a need for schemes like community alert and neighbourhood watch to be put into operation in towns. Those schemes were in operation in the past and some of them have fallen, so to speak, but we could renew them. I hope they will be put in place in those areas.

I have spoken to gardaí who are very concerned about people having cash in their houses. I hope some of that money could be put into financial institutions, which would be a safer place.

I urge that the points I have raised be examined, particularly those on the community alert and the various other schemes for lighting, alarms and security locks under the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. I hope extra lighting will be provided in some of the housing estates where it is badly needed.

Deputy John Perry: Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry I thank Deputy Kitt for raising this matter which I am sure is important to the communities in the areas mentioned. I am pleased to be able to set out the position on [651]behalf of the Minister, Deputy Shatter. I have no doubt the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Cannon, is also aware of the situation.

The House is aware that, under plans agreed by the previous Government as part of its compliance with the terms of the EU-IMF agreement, Garda numbers are to be reduced across the country, including in the areas referred to by the Deputy. Reductions in numbers, whether in the Garda Síochána or elsewhere in the public sector, must be accompanied by reform. This reform is being introduced under the Croke Park agreement, which was put in place as part of a strategic response to an economic crisis. The agreement is playing a key role in reform across the public service. This programme includes the reform of structures, operations and processes to maintain the levels of service at the highest level possible while coping with reductions in numbers.

The Garda Síochána, like every other public sector body, will have to manage with reduced resources. Therefore, the Garda Commissioner has reviewed, and will continue to review, all aspects of current policing, including the deployment of personnel, the utilisation of modern technologies and the operation of Garda stations.

The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources and in this context he informed me that on 29 February, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of the Galway and Roscommon-Longford divisions was 585 and 277 respectively. These figures include two sergeants and nine gardaí stationed in Glenamaddy, Moylough, Mountbellew and Ballygar stations. A total of 59 Garda Reserve members and 44 civilians are also attached to the Galway Garda division and 15 Garda Reserve members and 24 civilians are also attached to the Roscommon-Longford Garda division. All divisional resources are further augmented by a number of Garda national units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau, the Criminal Assets Bureau and other specialised units.

In the Commissioner’s annual policing plan for 2012, he reiterated his commitment to “maintaining and deepening the long established relationship which An Garda Síochána has with all members of the community”. The importance of the partnership between an Garda Síochána and the community in preventing and detecting crime and maintaining a safe environment for everyone can never be over-emphasised and the pledge of An Garda Síochána is to continue to invest time and energy in these partnerships and relationships to the benefit of all.

Community policing is supported by the community alert programme, which is a community-based crime prevention initiative in rural communities. The neighbourhood watch programme is another community programme, partnering An Garda Síochána with local communities in urban areas, established as a self-help crime prevention and community safety programme.

With regard to Garda transport, an order for 40 new cars has recently been placed and these vehicles are being rolled out. In addition, a tendering process is under way to put in place a contract which will allow for the provision of further Garda vehicles. This is a matter that will be pursued in light of An Garda Síochána’s operational priorities and the availability of financial resources.

Garda management will continue to closely monitor the allocation of resources, taking account of transfers and retirements, crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a district, divisional and regional level. The Galway and Roscommon-Longford Garda divisions will be subject to this same level of monitoring to ensure that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. The Garda Commissioner has reiterated the commitment of the Garda Síochána to providing [652]a professional and effective service to the community and he will have the Minister’s full support in this regard.

Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I thank the Minister of State. I have been provided with a copy of a different reply to the one he has given the House and I would appreciate a copy of what he has stated. This situation is serious. At the weekend two schools local to where I live were broken into. People are beginning to ask whether gangs from outside the county are coming to Galway. Is it possible that the Minister in conjunction with the Garda could examine putting cameras on the bridges on the roads into County Galway? Nobody seems to know where the break-ins will occur next and people are concerned about outside influences and local knowledge. While there is much speculation, there is no proof of this at present. The Minister of State has provided detail in the response document I have been given and announced it in his address to the House. I thank him for what he stated and I hope he will bring my comments to the attention of the Minister.

Deputy John Perry: Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry The Deputy will be provided with a copy of my speech. I thank him for providing me with an opportunity to respond. As has been mentioned, the Commissioner and a senior management team are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the country. This allocation of resources is constantly monitored with regard to crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a district, divisional and regional level to ensure optimal use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to public.

I wish to make the following specific points in response to some of the issues raised by the Deputy. While the ethos of community policing is instilled in every member of the Garda Síochána, 21 gardaí are dedicated to community policing in the Galway division and nine are dedicated to community policing in the Roscommon-Longford division. The question of the closure of Garda stations is one for the Commissioner to decide upon as such closures must be detailed in his annual policing plan. The policing plan for 2013 is not yet developed and I will not speculate on what might be in it.

The efficient and effective use of resources is of prime concern in this regard rather than the relatively small cash savings that may accrue as a result of station closures. I will bring the other points raised by the Deputy to the attention of the Minister and the Commissioner. The resources available in the areas referred to by the Deputy are augmented when necessary by district, divisional, regional and national units such as scene of crime officers, the Garda National Drugs Unit and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Glenamaddy Garda station forms part of the Tuam Garda district. Ballinasloe district comprises the two administrative areas of Ballinasloe and Mountbellew. Mountbellew has in its area Moylough, Menlough, Mountbellew and Ballygar, including the Newbridge and Creggs areas. The area of south Roscommon is policed by the gardaí attached to the Clonark Garda station in the Roscommon district.

A community alert scheme is in each of the areas referred to with the exception of Newbridge. Neighbourhood watch and community alert schemes are established at the request of a particular community and every neighbourhood watch and community alert scheme has a liaison officer to ensure a formal link with the local Garda station. Six community alert schemes are in existence in the south Roscommon area in Ballyforan, Curraghboy, Kiltoom, Drum, Moore and Taughmaconnell. Plans are in place with the assistance of the crime prevention officer based at Roscommon Garda station to review, and in some cases amalgamate, some of these in the near future.

[653]The district officer at Ballinasloe Garda station met Deputy Kitt and a number of people from the Newbridge area on Tuesday, 20 March 2012, to discuss their concerns about a number of recent crimes in the area. As result of this meeting it has been agreed to reactivate the dormant community alert and neighbourhood watch schemes in the Newbridge area. Gardaí in Ballinasloe have organised an open community meeting for the Newbridge and Ballygar areas, which will be held this week, to establish correctly a community alert scheme. Another meeting was held last week in the Ballygar area which was attended by local residents and addressed by the divisional crime prevention officer and Mr. Bernard Kearney of Muintir na Tíre. The meeting was also attended by gardaí attached to Ballygar. I hope this information is of some benefit to the Deputy.

Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I thank the Minister of State.

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