52. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the effectiveness of the community CCTV scheme in view of the fact that to date there have only been six applications under the scheme, none of which have been successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51695/17]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for a Partnership Government commits to supporting investment in CCTV systems and, in this context, my Department launched the Community-based CCTV Grant-aid Scheme in April 2017, as the vehicle to assist community groups in the establishment of CCTV systems in their local areas.
Under the Scheme, eligible community groups can apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum grant of €40,000. Upon approval of the grant, the applicant will receive an up-front payment of 50% of the grant with the balance to be paid when the system is fully operational.
It is unfortunately the case that the number of applications received to date is well below expectations. To date, 6 applications have been received, in addition to a significant number of enquiries about the Scheme. As these applications were incomplete, they were returned to the applicants concerned to enable them to provide the information necessary to qualify for grant-aid. I expect however that at least some of these applications will be resubmitted and be successful.
Full details of the Scheme, including guidelines, application forms, code of practice and other relevant documentation are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie.
Guidance is available to help local groups to apply for this important funding and I am keen to ensure that groups take full advantage of the availability of this funding.
I am very conscious of the value that communities, especially rural communities, place on CCTV as a means of deterring crime and assisting in the detection of offenders. I will say that these schemes are important and that they do help in crime reduction. I am satisfied that the grant-aid Scheme is worthwhile and I believe that it is worth making the funding available to communities in 2018 and 2019.
I am aware that the Data Protection Commissioner is responding to queries about the status of community CCTV schemes and I understand that the matter will be examined as part of a periodic scheduled engagement with An Garda Síochána. I can inform the Deputy that my officials consulted with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, the Office of the Attorney General, An Garda Síochána, Pobal and the Local Government Management Association (who liaised with the County and City Management Association), in relation to the Scheme.
I am aware that there has been some criticism of the scheme as being too 'bureaucratic' and my Department has been working with the various interested parties at local and community level to address any concerns in this regard. My Department continues to receive a constant flow of enquiries about the Scheme and I would encourage interested groups to avail of it.
It is worth pointing out that the Scheme, including the data protection requirements, is modelled closely on the previous grant-aid Scheme operated by Pobal on behalf of my Department between 2005 and 2013 under which some 45 Community-based CCTV systems were established operating in a mix of urban and rural environments.
If the Deputy is aware of any Groups that wish to avail of the Scheme but have not done so to date, I would ask him to let me know and I will ensure that they are given whatever support they require in order to make an application. In this context, my officials recently met with Irish Rural Link as well as some community representatives in relation to the Scheme. This level of engagement is encouraging.
I would also mention in the context of supporting local communities that I recently announced that an additional €100,000 was being made available to Text Alert Groups, registered with An Garda Síochána, to provide modest financial assistance with the running costs they incur each year. This Text Alert Rebate Scheme will be administered by Muintir na Tíre and Groups wishing to participate in the Scheme can find more details at www.muintir.ie. Gardaí continue to pursue a range of measures to support elderly and more vulnerable people in the community, working closely with Community Alert, Neighbourhood Watch and other community groups.