Michael Carty: Shatter's policing folly is leading to real fear and a new vigilantism
Published 01/02/2013 | 17:00
I AM in full agreement with the views of Justice Minister Alan Shatter when he says that the issue of resources did not contribute in any way to the appalling murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe.
But I disagree with him in relation to the closures of garda stations and the implementation of the new 'smart' policing model.
Disregarding public opinion and the opinion of experienced frontline gardai, it appears to be full steam ahead, regardless of the outcome.
This does not inspire confidence. And it certainly does not have the confidence of Fr Michael Cusack. He articulated the situation so well at the State funeral of Det Donohoe, when he urged the authorities to reflect on the need to maintain policing across this country.
A study of the most recent crime statistics would lead an objective observer to conclude that the new "smart" model of policing is failing in its objective of reducing crime. More significantly, the rise in burglaries and public-order offences, as reported, is of profound concern to citizens in general and those in rural areas in particular – especially those where the garda stations have been or are about to be closed.
And if the inordinate number of callers to Midwest Radio on a daily basis, expressing fear, anxiety and downright anger, is anything to go by it certainly does not augur well for confidence in the "smart" model.
Midwest covers an area where many elderly people live in isolated areas, some having relocated from the cities and overseas to escape the threat of crime.
Burglaries in one garda division shows a 30pc increase in a nine-month period in 2012, with a national increase in burglary of 8pc.
It seems that public order is an ongoing problem all over the country. A recent survey has revealed that 89pc of respondents in Roscommon said they feared being burgled.
At a recent Joint Policing Committee meeting, held in a rural area, profound concern was expressed at the number of vigilante groups now being formed to protect communities from criminal attacks.
Moreover, reports suggest a dramatic increase in the number of citizens seeking firearms licences and upgrading firearms. This is a natural reaction by human beings who perceive that their safety, security and possessions are threatened. It's understandable – but the first steps towards anarchy and a failure of the rule of law.
Put simply, the new model of policing seems to be ineffective in so far as the people living in the countryside are concerned.
A big deal is being made about the allocation of 230 new vehicles, including vans and unmarked cars.
Consider this: there are about 30 garda districts, in addition to the specialist units, including the crime units, ERU and Traffic Corps.
This in total makes for a distribution of about five vehicles per district and unit. And according to the garda associations, a huge number of vehicles in the current fleet are clapped out and require urgent replacement.
The critical element of a response model is fast high-powered transport. So when will the response model be fully motorised?
The illusion has been created that the closure of the garda stations will make policing more effective. I do not agree. For decades the evidence has shown that the best way to police is for law enforcers to be among the community they purport to serve and not driving around in cars on country roads.
Sadly, the evidence is there for all to see in our newspapers and on our TV screens. The horrific tales of elderly people being assaulted and robbed is something that should not be tolerated – or even occurring – in a civilised society.
It appears that Mr Shatter and his advisers know what is best for the citizens of rural Ireland, who have to contend with burglaries, assaults, robberies, heating-oil theft and general disorder.
Finally, the minister should reconsider the current recruitment policy and, while he is at it, get cracking at tackling such issues as sentencing policy, prison accommodation, the absurd bail situation and the establishment of a DNA database into the 21st century.
Otherwise we could be entering the gun-by-the-bed culture. And we all thought the day of the gun in Irish society was over.
Michael Carty is a retired garda chief superintendent and was the personal assistant to Commissioner Pat Byrne