115. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 19 October 2017, the reason the Government has allowed such a divergence arise in the number of gardaí per capita in view of the fact there is one garda for every 447 persons in the State on average however in County Meath there is one garda for every 660 persons (details supplied). [47532/17]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
In regard to the deployment of Garda personnel, a distribution model is used which takes into account all relevant factors including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each individual Division. It is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his/her Division as appropriate.
I am advised that ratios such as the number of Garda per head of population are not an appropriate tool to use when considering the allocation of Garda resources as they fail to take account of, among other things, the fact that crime levels and types can vary significantly among communities of similar population size.
I am informed by the Commissioner that the Garda strength of the Meath Division on 30 September 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 293 compared to a strength of 279 on 30 September 2015, representing a 5% increase in the strength of the Division. There are also 16 Garda Reserves and 29 civilians attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
I am further informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 46 of whom have been assigned to the Meath Division. In addition, another 200 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest later this year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - an increase of 500 since the end of 2016.
As the Deputy is aware, Operation Thor, which is effective in all Garda Divisions including the Meath Division, involves a broad range of activities to tackle organised crime gangs and other prolific offenders as well as working with communities to prevent crime. It is encouraging to note that in parallel with the implementation of Operation Thor burglary figures in particular have shown a significant downward trend. The CSO official recorded crime statistics for Q4 of 2016 show a 30% decrease in burglary for the twelve months of 2016 when compared to the same period in 2015 - which parallels the implementation of Operation Thor. Furthermore, in terms of burglary, the decrease in Meath Division for this period is 2% higher than the national average with a decrease in burglary of 32%.
This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. The substantial increase in Garda numbers is tangible progress on achieving this Government’s vision of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.
I am pleased to say that Budget 2018 will support the continuation of this high level of investment in the Garda workforce and ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. A further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College, an additional 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training early in 2018.
This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, including the Meath Division, in the coming years.
This investment in personnel is complemented by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána. Some €330 million, including €205 million under the Capital Plan, is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure over the period 2016 to 2021.
The Deputy may wish to be aware that on foot of a commitment in the Programme for Government, the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, at the request of the Policing Authority, is carrying out a review of the dispersal and use of resources available to An Garda Síochána in the delivery of policing services to local communities. The Authority has informed the Inspectorate that the review should take account of:
- the changing environments in rural, developing urban and suburban areas;
- the views of local communities;
- the allocation to and deployment of Garda resources at the local policing level, including the use of the Garda Reserve, Garda facilities and Garda equipment; and
- relevant recommendations made in previous Inspectorate reports.
The review will be comprehensive including a consultative process with local communities. It is the view of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate that the review should be completed within the first half of 2018.