279. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of community gardaí assigned to each county in each of the years 2015 to 2017 and to date in 2018, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7204/18]
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.
Community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána. It provides a means of recognising that every community - both urban and rural - has its own concerns and expectations. I am assured by the Commissioner that the Garda National Model of Community Policing plays a key part in responding to crime by taking into account and responding to local conditions and needs. Clear objectives are set, such as high visibility in the community, ease of contact by members of the public, and enhanced support for crime prevention strategies. In addition, the National Community Policing Office, attached to the Garda Community Relations Bureau, captures best practice in community policing initiatives and disseminates these practices through its communication network. It is of course the case that all Gardaí have a role to play in community policing in carrying out their duties, not solely those assigned full-time as community Gardaí.
I have previously stated that I welcome the strong emphasis that the Commissioner's Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 places on developing and supporting the community policing ethos of the organisation and enhancing the current delivery model so that Gardaí spend more time in the community, gaining public confidence and trust and providing a greater sense of security. It will result in the introduction of multi-skilled Community Policing Teams and Community Policing Fora in every District.
In terms of progress on this important initiative, I am informed that a draft Community Policing Framework which outlines the manner in which Community Policing Teams and Community Safety Fora will be established has been completed and is subject to internal review before being approved by the Garda Executive for implementation.
The 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. To make this a reality for all the Government has in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 including 15,000 Garda members.
In addition, a further 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 in 2018.
Real, tangible progress has been made towards this goal. Since reopening the Garda College in September 2014, nearly 1,600 new recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 - a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016. I am advised that there were 691 Garda assigned to community policing duties as of 31 December 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available.
I am pleased to say that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College. Also, 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year, which will see Garda numbers reach more than 14,000 by the end of 2018.
Undoubtedly, the on-going recruitment process will support all Garda activities and will enhance Garda visibility within our communities and the provision of effective community policing across all Garda Divisions.
I have requested the information sought from the Garda Commissioner and will communicate directly with the Deputy in due course.