Annual Policing Plan for 2013

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter TD, yesterday laid the Annual Policing Plan for 2013 before the Houses of the Oireachtas. 

Towards the end of each year, the Garda Commissioner must submit to the Minister a Policing Plan setting out the proposed arrangements for policing the State for the following year.

The Policing Plan is based on the 4 Garda strategic goals of Securing Our Nation, Proactive Policing Operations, Ensuring Safe Communities, and Delivering a Professional Service. At its heart is the Garda Síochána’s primary objective of preventing, detecting and disrupting crime and criminal activity and ensuring that people feel safe in their homes, on our roads and in our community. The Policing Plan must, among other things, include any proposal to consolidate the Garda station network, to change opening times of Garda Stations, or to make changes to Garda organisational boundaries.

The Plan sets out proposals for continuing the process of restructuring and reconfiguring the way in which policing services are organised and delivered, with the aim of enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of the Force at a time of financial constraint. In particular, it envisages the consolidation of 100 Garda stations, a reduction in public opening hours in 7 Garda stations in Cork and Dublin, and the amalgamation of 28 Garda Districts into 14.

Consolidation of Garda Station Network
Of the stations to be closed:

· 98% are currently open part-time;

· 94% of stations are open for 3 hours or less each day;
· 88% are served by 1 Garda member only;
· only 5% are served by 3 or more Garda members,
· 86 are less than 10 miles from the new station, and
· 30 are 5 miles or less from the new station.

In addition to the closure of part-time small Garda Stations, two large stations in Dublin are to be closed. These are Stepaside in South Dublin which has 34 Garda members and Kill O’ the Grange in Dun Laoghaire which has 28 Garda members. When the stations are closed these members will be primarily allocated to Dundrum and Dun Laoghaire stations. The Garda authorities are currently preparing a timeframe for the consolidation to take place in 2013. It is anticipated that most of the stations will be closed in the first six months of 2013.

Objective of Consolidation of Garda Station Network

The objective of the consolidation of the Garda Station Network is to secure the more efficient deployment of Garda members so that a more effective policing service can be delivered in the areas concerned. The consolidation will free up members of An Garda Síochána from desk duties to frontline policing. There will also be small cash savings, mainly on maintenance and utilities, but that is not the primary objective. The consolidation of the stations will also mean that, where they are State-owned, they will be available for alternative community use or disposal.

Consultation with Local Communities

Local Garda management will consult with local communities on the alternative policing arrangements to be put in place in their area, which will include discussion at Joint Policing Committees and Local Community Policing fora.

Speaking today, Minister Shatter said “As Minister I am committed to ensuring that the Garda Síochána use all of its resources in the fight against crime in the most efficient and effective way possible. Until I assumed office the number and location of Garda stations in the State had barely changed since 1922 and the need for change and consolidation of Garda stations, based on a modern operational assessment as to how the Gardaí can best serve the community, was clearly required. The approach to policing in the first quarter of the 21st Century could not continue to be based on the location of police stations as inherited from the British in the first quarter of the 20th Century. Whilst an appropriate spread of Garda stations will always be a key element of our policing service, account must be taken of the revolutionary developments since the foundation of the State in transport, communications and technology. This is the objective of the reforms that are taking place. In addition I must ensure that we use decreasing financial resources to the optimum benefit of the wider community in a manner that facilitates the presence in communities of operational Gardaí on patrol, preventing and detecting crime rather than Gardaí substantially engaged in administrative duties behind desks.

The Minister continued “Nobody should be under the illusion that a single Garda sitting at a desk in a small Garda Station for three hours in the morning, no matter how committed or competent, is the best approach to tackling crime. We must free up Gardaí so that they are available for frontline operational purposes. In this context it is important to note that none of the Garda stations being consolidated outside Dublin are currently open or manned at night and most of them are only open in the morning.

“I am pleased that, despite the financial difficulties we were able to acquire 213 Garda vehicles in 2012 with €4m. In 2013, a further €5m will be made available for the purchase and fit-out of vehicles to ensure Garda mobility and the continuing modernisation of the Garda fleet.

The Minister also said “I would like to thank the Garda Commissioner for the initiatives he is taking in implementing crucial reform in the public interest in respect of the Garda Síochána. He is right in stating that the steps now being taken represent “the most fundamental restructuring of An Garda Síochána” since its foundation. The reforms being implemented will deliver significant benefits for the country as a whole and for the Garda Force”.

Freeing up Gardaí

Of the 39 Garda stations consolidated in 2012, 8 were closed in reality, some for many years, and many of the remainder were only open for a few hours every week.

With regard to the consolidation of the Garda station network effected in 2012, the Garda authorities have reported that 167 Garda members were reallocated arising from the consolidation. In addition they have stated that, following the reduction in public opening hours at certain stations, 16 additional members have been freed up for operational duties

The consolidation of the Garda station network detailed in the 2013 Policing Plan is based on the operational judgement of the Garda Commissioner as to how best to deploy Garda personnel on operational duties. What is being proposed will secure the release of Gardaí for patrol and other operational duties in local communities.

Even after the proposed station consolidation next year, there will still be 564 Garda stations in the State. We will have significantly more police stations than comparable jurisdictions, such as Northern Ireland, where 86 stations with a population of 1.5 million people, or Scotland, where there are around 340 for a population of 5.2 million. It should be noted that in Northern Ireland consideration is being given to significantly reducing the number of stations by 2015.

Substantial Investment in Garda Vehicles

In 2012, 213 additional Garda vehicles have been acquired at an overall cost of about €4m. Furthermore, to ensure Garda mobility and continuing upgrading of the Garda fleet, there will be a sum of €5m available for the purchase and fit-out of new Garda vehicles in 2013.

Innovative and Cutting Edge Policing

The reform agenda will continue in 2013 with the enactment of crucial legislation for a DNA Database. During the course of 2012 substantial progress has been made by the Forensic Science Laboratory in putting in place the infrastructure required for the establishment of a DNA Database. In addition, substantial work has been undertaken by the Minister at European Union level to ensure the efficient exchange of both fingerprint and DNA information in the fight against organised crime, domestic subversion and international terrorism.

Garda measures to Combat Crime

The Garda Síochána has had significant success throughout 2012 in tackling crime. According to the latest figures from the CSO, most categories of recorded crime are falling, including homicide, assault, robbery and public order offences. The Garda Commissioner has responded to the increase in the number of burglaries with Operation Fiacla, which is an intelligence driven nationwide campaign backed up by specific burglary initiatives in each Garda Region. By the 29 November 2012, more than 3,217 persons were arrested and 1,737 charged through Operation Fiacla. Minister Shatter commends the Gardai for effectively tackling the prolific offenders behind the growth in burglaries.

The Gardaí are also continuing to bear down hard on organised and gang crime. Week in week out, An Garda Síochána is making arrests and bringing persons before the Courts, with substantial sentences handed down in many instances. Considerable success has also been achieved in disrupting the illicit drugs trade on which much organised crime depends. In excess of €90m of drugs were seized in the first nine months of the year, including the largest ever in-land seizure of cocaine in Ireland. Other seizures are taking place on a continuous basis, including extensive seizures and multiple arrests at cannabis grow houses around the country.

The Garda reforms now under way, include not only the reform and modernisation of the Garda station network and District network, but also new Garda rosters which more closely match resources with the pattern of demand, will enable the Force to continue its effective policing operations in the fight against crime.

Restricted Opening Hours to the Public

Seven garda stations are to have their opening hours to the public reduced. The relevant stations are located in Cork and Dublin, five will be open to the public from 7am to 9pm seven days a week and two from 12 noon until 9 pm Monday to Saturday. They will still be used by members of An Garda Síochána for operational purposes. The relevant Garda stations are detailed on page 20. These new arrangements will make more Gardaí available for frontline duties as is the case with station closures.

Amalgamation of Garda Districts

During the course of 2013 the Garda Commissioner will also amalgamate 28 Garda Districts into 14 larger Garda Districts, which is detailed on page 21. This consolidation will enable more flexible deployment of Garda personnel in the enlarged Districts, and provide improved economies of scale in administration.

Profile of callers to Garda stations

It is worth noting that, on foot of a 2002 review of the Garda Síochána, a detailed survey of callers to all stations in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and the South-Eastern Region was carried out. The survey found that in Dublin 34% of callers simply required a Garda signature (mainly for motor tax and passports), while only 10% reported a crime or incident. In the South-East these figures were 44% and 5% respectively.

There is no reason to believe that the profile of callers to Garda stations has changed significantly since then, and this does need to be taken into account in any debate on the station network.

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