343. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice the steps she is taking to promote high-visibility policing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48853/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to ensuring that there is strong, visible policing right across Ireland. Prioritising visible policing in rural and urban communities will ensure community policing is at the forefront of our police service and an integral strand of our social contract with the public.
To this end, An Garda Síochána has an unprecedented budget of €1.952 billion in 2021. This level of funding is supporting the ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. There are now approximately 14,400 Garda members and over 3,300 Garda staff nationwide.
Although the budget was available for the recruitment of 600 Gardaí this year, the Commissioner has indicated that, due to the impact of the pandemic restrictions in Templemore, Garda recruitment is likely to total approximately 450 trainees spread over four intakes this year. Three of these intakes have already commenced training and the final intake are due to commence next month.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is introducing the new Garda Operating Model, which is designed to make each Division the central unit of policing administration, rather than the current smaller District model. This is to provide a more comprehensive and inclusive policing service and will help strengthen the focus on community policing. As part of this process, trained Gardaí are freed up from desk duties and redeployed to front line policing.
The Government is committed to delivering on the report of the Commission for the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI), which acknowledges that policing and community safety are not the sole responsibility of the Gardaí but require a whole of Government approach.
As the Deputy will be aware, my Department recently published the General Scheme of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill. This Bill will improve the performance and accountability of our policing and security services, and support the human rights of all people throughout Ireland to be and feel safe in their communities. It will represent the most wide ranging and coherent reform of policing in a generation.
The Bill has four main objectives:
1. Make the prevention of harm and protection of people who are vulnerable or at risk, and the safety of communities, a “whole of government” responsibility,
2. Strengthen and consolidate independent, external oversight of An Garda Síochána,
3. Enhance the internal governance of An Garda Síochána and the role of the Garda Commissioner as CEO, and
4. Improve the independent oversight of our national security infrastructure.
This Bill has been developed on the basis of the recommendations of CoFPI following its fundamental in-depth review and builds on the work of the Policing Authority.
The Commission found that community safety requires a whole of Government approach in partnership with local communities. My Department has been developing a new Community Safety Policy and this new policy will be given a statutory basis in the Bill. To support and inform the policy, three Local Community Safety Partnerships are being piloted in Dublin’s North Inner City, Waterford and Longford and will run for the next two years.
Local Community Safety Partnerships are designed to take a holistic approach to safety issues in partnership with the community. The Partnerships will allow local communities to identify issues of particular concern within their area and work with the relevant State services to develop a local Community Safety Plan to specifically tackle these issues. The Local Community Safety Partnerships will be rolled out nationwide to all local authority areas after the pilot phase of two years.
I am very aware of recent incidents of anti-social behaviour in on our communities. I met senior members of An Garda Síochána and representatives of businesses in Dublin city centre, as well as local representatives, in recent weeks to discuss the issue of anti-social behaviour in the city. I will be in continuing contact with An Garda Síochána and others as we progress through the autumn and winter on the actions being taken to ensure people feel safe in Dublin and other towns and cities.
An Garda Síochána continues to implement high visibility policing plans to address public disorder related issues and anti-social behaviour, with particular overt and targeted policing of public places at times when public order incidents and anti-social behaviour typically increase, such as at bank holidays weekends.
As the Deputy will be aware, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, an Expert Forum on Anti-Social Behaviour has been established, chaired by Minister of State James Browne. This forum considers the effectiveness of existing legislation and proposes new ways forward, including new powers for An Garda Síochána and additional interventions to support parenting of offenders. A sub-group of the forum has already considered measures which can be taken with regard to the misuse of scramblers and quad bikes in communities and similar sub groups can also be established for other issues where appropriate. For example, a further subgroup on the issue of knife crime has now been established and had its first meeting on 28 September.