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Policing is about people rather than buildings

THE new policing model being proposed makes a lot of sense.

The emotional reaction in rural areas to the threat of station closures is understandable.

Successive governments have been accused of focusing too much on the needs of the large urban communities to the detriment of people who choose to live in the country.

They have seen the disappearance of the network of local post offices, centralisation of bank branches, the closures of corner shops due to competition from supermarket chains and pubs shut down by changed drinking habits.

Inevitably, the threatened loss of another village institution sparks off immediate opposition.

But the reality is that many of the existing stations are either unmanned or open only for a couple of hours a week.

And a speaker at a conference of the top 50 officers in the force summed up what their job should be when he addressed his colleagues at the Garda College in Templemore.

He said their aim was to produce a policing service that was all about people and how they served the community, rather than about buildings.

For the past few months, the Irish Independent has made it clear that it supported the concept of shutting down some stations -- provided the Government made money available to purchase more patrol cars.

The fleet had been facing a crisis and losing cars at the rate of one a day as the vehicles reached the safety limit of 300,000km.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has now made enough additional funding available to purchase 170 new vehicles and the garda authorities have pledged to utilise them to increase the policing service to the rural areas that will be left without a station.

Last year, we had a total of 702 garda stations. It's a number that far exceeds that which exists in European jurisdictions.

Irish Independent