Wexford has the third lowest Garda force in the country
COUNTY Wexford has the third lowest level of Garda cover in the country.
The lack of policing power was laid bare by Chief Superintendent John Roche at the Joint Policing Committee meeting. The county is currently without an adequately manned traffic corps, while the drug division is manned by a solitary senior Garda.
Supt Roche said there are around 245 Gardaí serving the county, making a ratio of 1:581 Gardaí per head of population. The county has 41 less Gardaí than in recent years when the force stood at 286. Supt Roche said: 'We've a shortage of guards in Wexford. We've the third highest ratio in the county after Kildare and Meath.'
Cllr Barbara Anne Murphy asked Supt Roche to compare her district of Enniscorthy with Wexford in terms of policing.
Speaking specifically about Bunclody she said: 'On paper we have two sergeants but in reality one of the sergeants has never stepped a foot inside the station and the other sergeant is on circuit court duty.' She said Clonroche has no Garda.
Supt Roche said the Garda to population ratio is much higher for Enniscorthy at up to one guard for every 650 residents.
He said crime levels are higher in the Gorey area, particularly in Riverchapel and Courtown and a sergeant has been relocated there temporarily from Bunclody.
Former Garda Cllr Joe Sullivan said the ratio is most likely closer to one guard per 700 residents.
'The CSO figures show the offences for trespassing have increased alarmingly from 17 in 2004 to 186 in 2012. The nearest station we had to the Dublin Metropolitan Region in Gorey has been downgraded and the gate has been opened to allow the travelling criminal through. Gorey was the place where most criminals were caught. People in Gorey feel neglected and abandoned by the policing force.'
Supt Roche said his staff have been very accommodating in moving into different areas to cover for a few months.
Deputy John Browne said North Wexford is undermanned in terms of Garda cover.
'Burglaries in Enniscorthy have shot up alarmingly to the extent that some people don't even report them anymore. People tell me they actually know the people who are doing it and they are from the area. There is a problem there at the moment that needs to be addressed.'
He said the drug dealers are known and yet they are now being arrested.
Senator Jim Walsh asked for a comparative breakdown comparing Co Wexford with other counties and called on something to be done to improve detection levels, suggesting mobile phone tracking.
Senator Michael D'Arcy Jnr called for a superintendent to be based in Gorey, asking for it to be the first item on the agenda for the next Joint Policing Committee meeting.
'The district would remain merged but the district superintendent would be in Gorey.' Cllr Sullivan seconded the motion.
Cllr George Lawlor praised Gardaí for the work they are doing in the community in difficult times when resources have been reduced.
Cllr Lawlor said there is a delay in getting Garda housing reports, which in turn leads to delays for prospective home owners.
'We might have to wait six weeks,' Cllr Lawlor said.
Chief Superintendent John Roche said there have been delays processing the housing paperwork in the Thurles department which handles the queries.
Senator D'Arcy Jnr asked Supt Roche how the decision was arrived at to discontinue the superintendent role in Gorey. Supt Roche replied that he sent a factual report on crime and policing issues in North Wexford to a panel who ultimately made the decision.
Senator D'Acry Jnr said the North Wexford area has a population of over 80,000 making it far bigger than the Waterford City Garda division and yet there is only one superintendent.
Supt Roche said drug dealers are difficult to detect, especially if members of the public won't come forward and assist Gardaí.
'People might feel intimidated but they can come to us confidentially. Our divisional drugs unit had a staff of eleven and now it's down to one. It's not just the drug's unit; it's the traffic unit also. Unfortunately I had to take hard decisions to secure frontline services.'
Supt Roche said catching drug pushers and users remains a top priority. 'We have increased the number of detectives and they are dealing with drug addicts and users. It's not satisfactory; I'd much prefer a dedicated drugs unit.'
He said the force in the county is getting five students in May.
'This is the first new blood we've had in the division for four years. This hopefully will be the start of the new cycle.' He said while mobile phone tracking will place a suspect in an area, it will not place him in a house. 'Beyond reasonable doubt is the threshold; unless we can put a suspect in a shop or a house it's no good.'