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More gardai on city streets at weekends

MORE gardai are set to patrol the streets on busy Friday and Saturday nights.

An overhaul of working practices will see more officers on duty during the busiest periods each week.

The new rosters will not come into place until the New Year, however. They were drawn up after consultation between garda management and the force's representative associations.



Rest

The work schedules will see larger numbers deployed at times when public order offences are high, for example Friday and Saturday nights, and fewer resources used when the streets are relatively quiet.

Under the current system the same number of gardai are on duty at 6am on a Monday as there are at 11pm on a Friday.

The new rosters also take account of the European working time directive, which restricts the hours employees can work and guarantees break and rest periods.

The gardai and the Defence Forces have been exempt from the directive, until now. The agreement on new rosters has been negotiated as part of the Croke Park public sector talks.

The move comes as numbers in the force begin to fall significantly.

Garda numbers have fallen from a high of 14,700 to 14,050 at present and are set to fall further to 13,750 by the end of 2011.

This will be 250 short of an agreed target in the Government's four-year programme for the public sector.

But increasing numbers of senior officers are likely to retire early before changes to their pensions are introduced at the end of February. This is likely to bring the bottom line figure down to the 13,500 target.

Increased civilianisation of posts is also planned as a result of the Croke Park talks.

More civilians are set to be employed at units involved in character vetting, 999 centres around the State and immigration duties at garda stations and at airports.

Civilians may also be deployed to man public offices and deal with callers to garda stations.

Separately, in the Prison Service the number of staff has been reduced to 3,500 from an agreed level of 3,750 and, with convicted offenders on the increase, the ratio between staff and prisoner has now altered significantly.

jlast@herald.ie


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