28 Mar 2019, 10.00

Rural Ireland needs additional policing with better resourcing designed to reduce crime and raise confidence in An Garda Síochána, the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality finds in a report published today.

The Report on Community Policing and Rural Crime makes 20 recommendations. It summarises the Committee’s findings from its meetings with key stakeholders, including police commanders from both sides of the border, international and local policing reform advocates, and community and farming leaders from across Ireland.

“The Committee strongly believes that the philosophy of community policing should underpin policing practice in Ireland,” said Justice Committee Chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD.

The report’s recommendations to promote community policing include:

  • The Department of Justice & Equality and An Garda Síochána should implement the recommendations on community policing made by the Commission on the Future of Policing in its 2018 report.
  • The Commission’s model for district community policing could be strengthened by assigning a dedicated officer or unit as a first point of contact for each community.
  • Rural areas that lost Garda stations and a regular police presence during the financial crisis should have vacant positions filled and receive priority for new resources, including by redeploying Gardaí from administrative posts to front-line district roles.
  • Gardaí should place renewed emphasis on early intervention, risk assessment and crime prevention aimed at young people in cooperation with Garda Youth Diversion Projects.
  • Officers need better training and 24/7 specialist support for managing people with mental health issues who are self-harming or harming others.

“Community policing promotes local problem-solving strategies to address the underlying causes of crime, whilst also addressing the fear of crime by providing reassurance to communities,” Deputy Ó Caoláin said. “Proactively addressing problems within communities, rather than reacting to crimes already committed, should become the organising principle of police activity.”

The report’s recommendations to reduce rural crime include:

  • Gardaí should boost rural patrolling and hold regular meetings in community centres to counteract social isolation in communities where Garda stations have closed.
  • Communities should install CCTV monitoring with the assistance of more advance funding and streamlined grant applications. Legislation could clarify the role of State agencies in oversight of CCTV schemes and data management.
  • Combatting cross-border crime will require more interagency co-operation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI, customs authorities, and the relevant government departments on both sides of the border.
  • Muintir na Tíre should receive renewed funding for its Community Alert and Text Alert schemes aimed at easing rural isolation and the fear of crime.
  • The IFA-operated Theftstop programme, which puts unique ID marks on property, should be expanded to include CESAR scanning equipment for police to track and locate stolen property across Europe.
  • Gardaí should use social media more effectively to drive engagement with isolated communities.

Read the Report on Community Policing and Rural Crime here.

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