Sunday 22 September 2019

Reduced garda numbers hit rural areas hardest - review

There are often fewer gardaí each day in rural areas.
Photo: Frank Mc Grath
There are often fewer gardaí each day in rural areas. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

People in rural areas have been suffering a limited service due to the drop in Garda numbers, a scathing review of the police force has found.

A Garda Inspectorate report, which examined the theme 'Policing with Local Communities', has concluded An Garda Síochána is "well behind other comparable services", with a lack of understanding about demand for services now or in the future, and issues with planning and training.

The review found the district model is too small in scale, which has led to "inefficient and inconsistent practices".

There are often insufficient gardaí on duty at the right times to deal with local policing demands, the review found.

Compared to urban areas, "there are often fewer gardaí available each day in more rural places and, as a result, communities in these areas often receive more limited services", the review found.

When Garda numbers dropped due to the austerity-related recruitment embargo, the force became more "reactive" and units that would be seen as more proactive - such as task forces and community policing units - have not had their numbers replenished despite a recent increase in Garda strength.

The report is critical of the way in which resources are managed and the slow take-up of technology to meet policing needs. Concern was raised about supervision levels, especially given the inexperience of many front-line staff.

Despite investment into the service, the report also said "slow progress on civilianisation, the continual decline in the number of reserves, abstraction of members from key front-line policing roles and unnecessary bureaucracy" has hindered opportunities to maximise front line resources.

A lack of accountability in relation to overtime, which is much higher than in other services, was also flagged.

Meanwhile, under-performing gardaí were also raised by members of the force "in most interviews and people at all ranks estimated that a significant proportion" of gardaí are under-performing.

It notes local communities have recorded a drop in visible Garda presence.

Fear of crime in rural areas was also identified by various organisations and people interviewed.

Irish Independent

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