Garda resources at an 'all-time low' in Wexford
NO assurances were given at the recent Wexford County Council meeting that the lack of Gardaí in the county will be significantly improved upon over the coming years.
Assistant commissioner Jack Nolan, who heads up Organisational Development and Strategic Planning and who is the Assistant Commissioner for the South Eastern Garda Region, said some new Gardaí will be drafted in to the county, but fell short of saying there would be a significant influx of staff to fill traffic corps and drugs squad roles.
Concern was expressed by councillors at the fact that the county has the third lowest Garda cover nationally.
Cllr Joe Sullivan asked if a new inspector will be instated in Gorey when the current inspector retires. He queried statistics from Mr Nolan regarding a 10 per cent drop in burglaries.
'I had a look back on 2004 and there were less than 20 trespass crimes recorded. By 2012 that figure had risen to 186.'
Responding to a question from Cllr Michael Sheehan, Mr Nolan said: 'Resources are at an all time low in Co Wexford. This touches also on the question from Cllr Davy Hynes. In 2010 there were 301 guards and now there are 248. We are losing about ten per year as a result of the economic downturn and the recruitment ban.'
He said Garda management are committed to trying to address this issue.
'With 699 new guards and 20 still in training and 175 due to enter Templemore there should be a steady stream. We have 45 people coming out of the current cohort and I am committed to supporting Chief Superintendent John Roche.'
He said five new Gardaí have come into the county in recent weeks, adding that there has been a 50 per cent reduction in guards taking sick leave.
Mr Nolan said Gardaí are committed to keeping all stations open in the county, adding that the policy of closing small stations generated 61,000 man hours nationally.
Replying to Cllr Hynes, Mr Nolan said the county's drug unit has been reduced.
'We have had to make difficult choices but we haven't stopped investigating drugs.
'Every Garda is involved in the detection and arrests for drug crimes. People may not know about these operations as the defendants often aren't brought to court for 12 months but significant efforts are being made.'
He said he was in favour of a councillors' suggestion about bringing back retired members of the force, adding that the Wexford meeting was the first time this was suggested openly.
Mr Nolan said he doesn't believe that Gorey Garda Station has been downgraded despite it losing a superintendent.
'The superintendent retired and as part of the national programme of amalgamating districts across the country larger, more sophisticated central units which had better strategic capabilities to respond to incidents were chosen. It tied in with a new roster change. We retained an inspector in Gorey. I have no indication that the inspector intends to retire. We put in a detective sergeant which Gorey never had before to bolster our fight against crime in the area.'
Mr Nolan pointed out that there are two detective sergeants in the district.
'We have a better crime challenging and crime disrupting capability now.'
He said there has been a significant emphasis on crime classification.
Cllr Paddy Kavanagh said Gardaí no longer live in the community where they police, which has a detrimental effect on policing.
'They are no longer in contact with the habits of local people. Before the guard would know everybody in the town,' he said. He said Gardaí should work more closely with the Revenue on people who have visible signs of wealth which remain unexplained.
One councillor, piped up by saying 'horseboxes!'
Cllr Pip Breen made a case for more Gardaí in North Wexford.
'With the new road we are very vulnerable to gangs from Dublin.'
Cllr Robbie Ireton expressed surprise that thefts in the county are down by 45 per cent saying thefts are occurring wide scale across the county to the extent that people don't even bother reporting them to Gardaí anymore. He said the drugs problem in the county is at epidemic proportions, with €7m in drugs seized in recent years.
Cllr John Hegarty praised Gardaí in the county for reducing crime figures. He asked Mr Nolan to explain the process which saw Gorey lose a superintendent.
'If you look at how it was done across the country, whether it's population, crime rates, distance to other headquarters etc, it doesn't seem to stack up.'
Mr Nolan said Gardaí work with Revenue on a number of operations and have had success in the region.
'Our Criminal Assets Bureau co-operate on major investigations. We are happy the legalisation is robust enough but unfortunately it's a lengthy process.'
Mr Nolan said the South East has the biggest road network of any region nationally, but stressed that there has been success in apprehending criminals fleeing back to Dublin having targeted homes in the county.
Mr Nolan said in 2012 An Garda Siochana was asked to look at its network of stations and districts.
'We were faced with declining budgets and Martin Callinan spoke about difficult choices to be made and Gorey and Enniscorthy was one of those choices'
He said station facilities, population and crime levels were all considered.
'There were significant debates about what should happen. With declining budgets we have been able to provide a better service for most of the people most of the time.'
Cllr Hegarty said: 'All the other areas had smaller populations. Is it a done deal?'
'I don't want to give any sense of false hope but these decisions were not lightly made. The population of the Gorey and Enniscorthy areas is pretty large and the Riverchapel, Courtown area creates a unique challenge. We've a sergeant and four guards there and we've maintained Courtown as a rural station,' Mr Nolan said.
He said apart from mobile and holiday homes being burgled, there haven't been many significant policing challenges in the area.
Mr Nolan said there are significant numbers of Gardaí living in the areas in which they work, adding that modern living means many live some distance from where they are stationed.