96. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to improve the existing community text alert scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40177/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government includes a commitment to support and prioritise community crime prevention, including Text Alert.
Community partnership has been particularly evident in the success of the Garda Text Alert scheme. Since it was launched in September 2013 it has grown quickly with a total of 164,000 subscribers and in the order of 3 million text messages sent annually. Every Garda Division, rural and urban, now offers the text alert service and An Garda Síochána has published guidelines to assist in the establishment and operation of local groups.
For many years, my Department has supported community crime prevention by providing funding for the Community Alert programme, which is operated by Muintir na Tíre in partnership with the Garda authorities. My Department provides funding in relation to the employment and associated costs of the national service, including three of the five regional Development Officers. The long-standing view has been that this is the best use of the resources available to my Department to support effective community crime prevention actions.
At the Ploughing Championships in September 2018, I announced that the Text Alert Rebate Scheme would be available to over 1,000 local groups registered under the Garda Text Alert Scheme. Under that Scheme, my Department made in the region of €150,000 available to local communities who wanted to apply for a rebate towards the costs associated with running their local Text Alert Scheme. Ultimately, payments made as part of the 2018 Scheme amounted to €112,500 which was allocated to 394 groups.
I can advise the Deputy that it is my intention to make a further announcement about the Text Alert Rebate Scheme for 2019 in the near future.