There is rarely a day when policing scandals are not front page news. From made-up figures to the smear campaign against whistleblowers, it is frankly becoming an issue that even the Government cannot spin its way out of. Crime is rampant and people are suffering, including the ordinary garda on the street. It is within that context that I have asked for the Minister to be present and to comment on the shocking cut of 136 gardaí in my area of Dublin South-Central.
I will start with some information I collected from a constituency-wide survey I carried out last year. When asked what was the biggest issue for the area, 20% of people said anti-social behaviour. Crime, dumping, drugs, gangland activity and murder accounted for 36% of answers. There is no doubt those issues have not been dealt with because of the lack of gardaí. When asked what people would change about the area, one constituent referred to anti-social behaviour and a lack of Garda presence.
The nitty-gritty of the cuts the Minister has imposed on Dublin South-Central are as follows. Kevin Street station has lost a massive 52 gardaí in the past seven years. Crumlin and Sundrive Road stations have lost 24 gardaí over the past seven years, and the number of gardaí in Ballyfermot station has reduced to 16. Last year the acting Garda Commissioner said that Ballyfermot would be one of the areas where a new Garda station would be opened rather than the suspect decision to reopen Stepaside Garda station. What possible justification is there for such cuts? There simply is not one. Saving money to spend on a Government spin unit is not of equal worth to the safety and security of people.
The details of the cuts to the number of gardaí is as follows. Dublin South-Central has lost 31 Garda sergeants since 2010. A newspaper ran a story only last week about the predicted crisis nationally from the delay in recruiting new Garda sergeants. Why should that be imposed on the people of Dublin South-Central? What about community gardaí? Nationally, the number of community gardaí in the force has fallen from 1,112 in 2010 to only 691 in 2017, a decrease of 38%. That shows the Government has no interest in investing in community policing although that is the future. Community gardaí are at the front line in tackling anti-social behaviour and creating good community relations. Having community gardaí can be transformative for communities. A good community garda can make connections, build relationships and work with the people in a community. In spite of that, Dublin South-Central went from having 99 community gardaí in 2011 to only 30 last year. That is a significant drop and the community is paying for it.
The effect of the drastic lack of numbers means gardaí experience fear on the streets. It is dangerous for the force not to know whether backup is needed in dangerous situations. Sinn Féin submitted a comprehensive document on the future of policing last month. I wonder whether the Minister read it. In it, we made more than 50 recommendations for the reform of policing. Those included reversing cuts to community gardaí, but there were also measures to strengthen accountability and protect whistleblowers. I urge the Minister to read it if he has not already done so.