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Significant disparities in nationwide policing levels revealed

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Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

There are major disparities in policing levels around the country, with some counties having twice as many gardai as others on a per-capita basis.

An analysis of how 11,000-plus gardai are assigned to 563 stations around the State reveals large variations in the number of gardai assigned to different areas based on both crime levels and population.

Several counties with some of the lowest crime rates in Ireland have some of the highest concentrations of gardai, while others with relatively high crime levels have much lower staffing ratios.

Excluding gardai who are members of special unit or based at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park, there were an average of 24.5 gardai per 10,000 people across the Republic in 2013.

However, the figure is as low as 15 gardai per 10,000 population in Kildare. Other counties with significantly low levels of gardai relative to the size of their population are Meath, Wexford and Kilkenny.

In contrast to Kildare, the counties of Sligo, Leitrim and Longford enjoy twice as many gardai per head of population, with more than 30 gardai for each 10,000 inhabitants.

Limerick, where additional garda resources were deployed over the past decade to counteract major gangland crime in the city, also has a relatively high concentration of gardai.

Similarly Dublin, with the highest crime rates in the country, has a comparatively high number of gardai with 28 per 10,000 population.

Dublin also has the highest concentration of Garda stations, with each policing an average area of just 22.5 square kilometres - an area approximately three times the size of the Phoenix Park.

The figures show that the two counties with the lowest crime rates in the Republic - Roscommon and Leitrim - have some of the highest policing levels anywhere, with 29.4 gardai per 10,000 people.

The map below shows Garda stations that recorded a 10-year high versus a 10-year low in crime in 2013. Green indicates low and red indicates high.

Meanwhile, other counties with relatively high crime rates - including Laois, Carlow and Louth - have below-average numbers of gardai.

The findings are likely to prove controversial at a time of mounting concern about the shrinking size of the force, which has reached its lowest level in many years.

And a fifth of the country's Garda stations have disappeared in the past two years, with the closure of some 140 stations affecting every corner of the State.

A further 29 Garda stations do not have a dedicated member of the force assigned to them.

Huge changes in the Garda network came last year, when 100 stations were closed as part of a controversial policing plan introduced by the then-Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, following the closure of 39 stations in 2012.

In the face of strong opposition from politicians and affected communities, he justified the large-scale closures as part of a strategic reorganisation of the force.

Irish Independent