Angry residents voice worries as busy garda station closes
ANGRY residents have been told of radical new policing plans for their area following the closure of a busy suburban garda station.
Stepaside garda station in Dublin, which is in Justice Minister Alan Shatter's constituency, is closing its doors for the last time tonight at 9pm as part of government plans to streamline the force and reduce costs.
The decision has drawn widespread criticism from local representatives, the business community and rank and file gardai.
Last night, local residents and business owners gathered at a Local Policing Forum meeting in Kilternan to hear proposals from the local policing forum.
Superintendent John Hand of Blackrock garda station outlined the changes coming into effect from tonight.
Phone calls to the old Stepaside phone number will be transferred to nearby Dundrum garda station.
He said that with the closure of the station, gardai "will be focusing on the best use of policing resources".
He said a crime prevention plan is being put into place for the Stepaside and Glencullen areas with "high-visibility patrols" using existing squad cars as well as gardai on mountain bikes.
According to Supt Hand, these patrols will be targeting property crimes "particularly robberies and aggravated burglaries".
He said there were 775 burglaries in the area in 2012 and a further 107 so far this year and that "thefts from the elderly and the vulnerable is of particular concern".
Supt Hand said that "community policing will form a major part of our strategy" and there will be weekly garda clinics on Tuesdays in Glencullen Library and Wednesdays in the Lamb's Cross Resource Centre.
Aileen Eglington from the Kilternan Residents' Association said the authorities are "imposing an urban policing model on a rural community".
"I'm just not convinced that the urban model in terms of intelligence policing will work in a rural environment.
"And that's because it's quite a disparate geographical area with narrow roads, no lighting in parts, and elderly people living on their own.
"I don't think the community are happy that intelligence policing will address those issues."
The Irish Independent recently revealed that overall crime in the area increased by 16pc from 2010 to 2011.
Thefts and related offences rose by 28pc over the same period, the highest level in five years. Burglaries and related offences rose by 30pc, also the highest in five years.
Stepaside station covered a wide area with a population catchment of up to 20,000 and is situated in an area zoned for significant population growth with an urban and rural spread.
It includes the villages of Stepaside, Glencullen and Sandyford and encompasses the Carrickmines and Leopardstown shopping centres.
The meeting was attended by Independent TD Shane Ross as well as a number of local councillors.
Labour councillor Lettie McCarthy said taking 35 gardai out of the area has "removed the heart of the community".
Mr Shatter said the closure will result in an extra 61,000 garda patrol hours.
Some 39 garda stations around the country were closed in 2012.