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Put more gardai back on beat

A RECURRING theme in the debate invariably sparked by the release of the latest crime figures is the need for more gardai on the beat. So rare is the sight of a garda on foot patrol, or even driving a squad car, or riding a motor bike, that the term "on the beat" has acquired an old-fashioned, even quaint ring.

Rapes, burglaries and robberies increased by 10pc last year. Many of the 53 murders were gang-related, and the increase in the number of rapes recorded may be due to more people coming forward.

These, together with all the kidnappings and human trafficking, are signs of violent times.

And it is hard to escape the conclusion that what Commissioner Murphy gravely described as a "notable trend in robberies from financial institutions", together with sharp increases in burglary and theft, are symptoms of hard times.

Surely the best way to police these "recession" crimes is by creating a greater and more visible garda presence in public.

In the past, response to this obvious need was to replace desk-bound gardai with civilians, but the number of gardai switched to frontline duty has been so much fewer than expected, that a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General has called for "more effective verification of the extent of replacement".

Replacing garda bureaucrats with civilians actually reduces costs, but whatever problems need to be overcome, the savings in terms of the public peace of mind alone would make it more than worthwhile.