A SHORTAGE of proper resources including vehicles, manpower and other equipment is leading to "half-hearted" efforts being made at some crime scenes, a garda union leader has claimed.
Frustrated members of the force sent a message to Alan Shatter, who was the first Justice Minister that gardai have failed to invite to their conference. Officers said they were being sent out in family saloon cars and small vans to catch travelling criminals using high-powered vehicles
"We might as well be provided with lawnmowers to keep up," said GRA president John Parker. He said the travelling gangs were driving top-of-the-range BMWs and Audis that, he claimed, could even outpace the garda helicopter.
Mr Parker said there was nothing more disheartening than to turn up for work and find a shortage of resources in terms of vehicles, manpower and other equipment.
He alleged that half-hearted efforts were being made at some crime scenes because of the lack of facilities; and that it turned into a public relations exercise, with the gardai putting as much time as possible into an investigation before being moved on in the following couple of days to the next crime.
At the association's annual conference in Westport, vice-president Dermot O'Brien said the size of the garda fleet had fallen from 2,814 vehicles in December 2009 to 2,444 in March 2013 and there had been a 30pc decrease in the number of marked patrol cars over the past three years.
He said the Government had purchased 80 small commercial-type vans, which were not fit for purpose.
They could only take two gardai if they were being called to a public order incident while the small compartment in the rear to hold a prisoner had no safety belts or air bags.
Mr O'Brien said it was rumoured that criminals were wearing night vision goggles and driving with the lights off on their high-powered cars while the gardai were trying to nab them in the small vans and 1.6-litre family saloon cars.
Meanwhile, both rank and file and senior gardai last night denied that a 22pc drop in the number of summonses being issued was due to gardai operating their right to discretion and failing to prosecute some minor crimes, which raised revenue for the State, as an unofficial protest against pay cuts.
Mr Parker said fewer gardai on the ground meant less opportunity for detection and, with fewer garda checkpoints, there was less scope for regular policing.
He said some analyses indicated that checkpoints were on the increase but this could be achieved by reducing the time spent on a checkpoint from half an hour to a quarter of an hour.
Senior garda officers last night attributed a drop in summonses being issued to a number of factors including a reduction in the strength of the garda traffic corps, which was responsible for a significant portion of the district court summonses, less overtime being available and the introduction of the new work roster, which meant gardai were not available at certain hours to serve them.