Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (660)

Ruth Coppinger


660. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if funding will be increased for initiatives such as community policing on public bus and rail services in view of the increased number of attacks and antisocial incidents across transport networks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36218/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that addressing local community concerns in relation to public order and anti-social behaviour is a key focus for An Garda Síochána. 

I would remind her that the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing placed a particular emphasis on the importance of community policing, in which front-line Gardaí are visible and engaged in communities, and develop partnerships with other public agencies and services to deliver a multiagency approach to community safety.

The new Garda Operating Model and revised Divisional Structure, announced recently by the Commissioner, meets a key priority in A Policing Service for the Future, the four year implementation plan giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing. In line with the ethos of community policing, the new model with provide more visible Gardaí on the frontline and devolve more power and decision making from Garda Headquarters to Chief Superintendents leading Divisions, which will ensure a more localised and responsive police service reflecting local needs.

I can also confirm that the Government also remains committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána have the necessary resources to tackle all forms of criminality in our communities.  An unprecedented €1.76 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to € 92 million this year.

The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the effective and efficient use of these resources as well as for the allocation and deployment of personnel. As Minister, I have no role in these matters.  I am assured however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

In relation to the specific issue of anti-social incidents on our transport networks, I am advised by An Garda Síochána that Garda management engages extensively with transport operators and that a range of regional and local operations have been put in place to address incidents and issues that have arisen.  There is ongoing communication between An Garda Síochána and the respective control centres, and access to good quality CCTV helps provide assistance to Gardaí when investigating serious incidents.

Clearly, Garda visibility is a key element in tackling anti-social behaviour and in this context I would point out that An Garda Síochána is a growing organisation. We currently have over 14,200 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 2,600 Garda staff.  With ongoing and increased recruitment of new Gardaí and Garda staff, we are on track for the Government’s plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021. Another 200 probationer Gardaí are due to attest by the end of this year. Further, the Commissioner’s decision to recruit a net 600 Garda staff in 2019 will allow for the redeployment of approximately 500 experienced Gardaí to frontline and visible policing duties by the end of this year.

It should also be noted that a range of strong legislative provisions are available to Gardaí in relation to public order and anti-social behaviour, including those under:

- the Criminal Damage Act 1991;

- Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994;

- the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003; and

- the Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008.

I am confident that these measures - the unprecedented resourcing of and increased recruitment to An Garda Síochána, as well as the ongoing process of Garda reform including a strengthened focus on community policing - will assist in ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country which will maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.