Garda superintendents call for more armed support units to tackle crime in Border areas
Senior garda officers are backing a call for the setting up of more armed support units to combat the rise in organised crime and dissident activity, particularly in areas where policing resources have been badly depleted.
They want a say in determining where the extra sources should be deployed and are seeking a consultative role in advising the garda commissioner on where the biggest problems are and what is needed to tackled.
The depth of feeling among the higher ranks at the shortage of manpower will be laid bare today at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents in Naas.
Association president Noel Cunningham warned last night that the force was playing catch-up and losing the battle against crime if they had to resort to “throwing” personnel at problems after they had spiralled in an area.
He said they needed a study to determine the optimum strength of the force and put more gardai on the ground to build up trust within the community and, at the same time, gather local intelligence on the activities of crime and dissident groups.
The force should not become a blue light agency, responding to incidents but should be seen on the streets and roads and at the heart of the community.
He recalled that at last year’s conference they had highlighted the dangers posed by crime corridors, particularly in the Border counties that had been hit by a reduction in manpower as a result of the peace process and the closure of police stations.
Those corridors were now being used by the gangs behind the recent spate of ATM robberies and said it was clear that those gangs were targeting areas where they believed garda resources were relatively thin on the ground.
Mr Cunningham said that a few years ago the country was talking about the wave of burglaries and thefts being carried out by highly mobile gangs, using the network of motorways.
That had been curbed when gardai were given the resources to counter the gangs and a similar approach was now needed to tackle the ATM gangs and other crime groups.
He called for more armed support units, to be deployed wherever garda management deemed necessary, but not necessarily in every garda division, which was suggested last week by the rank and file Garda Representative Association.
Mr Cunningham suggested that, in an area where uniformed had an expected response time of 15 minutes to an incident, it was ineffective if an armed support unit could not responds in a similar timeframe.
He will spell out the case for those resources this morning when he addresses Minister of State for Justice and Equality, David Stanton, who is due to speak at the conference.
Delegates will make their views known to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris during a questions and answers session this afternoon.
In a wide ranging address, Mr Cunningham will also underline the need for integration with minority groups and ensure that they were represented within the organisation while also calling for more social workers to be hired to work alongside schemes such as the juvenile diversion programme.
Also due for debate is the need for a structured state support for superintendents, who currently have to finance their own legal advice and representative when faced with a complaint, either before a tribunal or the Garda Ombudsman.
Both Garda Representative Association and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors have their own financial support to help members but superintendents, with little over 160 members, have to cope on their own.