478. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to involve communities further in crime prevention measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1770/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): An Garda Síochána places great emphasis on the importance of the partnership between An Garda Síochána and the community in preventing and detecting crime, and maintaining a safe environment for everyone. In this regard 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. Under this model there is a community policing team in each District, headed up by a Sergeant. 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. Within this framework, An Garda Síochána continues to tackle local crime issues including public disorder and anti-social behaviour by working with communities and business groups, including the hospitality industry, to reduce crime and enhance community safety. This approach includes a strong focus on quality of life issues and collaboration with local authorities to help address the causes of anti-social behaviour and related criminality.
Particular developments in recent years includes the national ‘Garda Supporting Safer Communities Campaign’ which reaffirms the community policing ethos through the hosting of various local activities and as part of which Gardaí give important Crime Prevention and Road Safety Advice. In addition, new Garda Community Crime Prevention Guidelines, which build on the work of existing partnership programmes such as Neighbourhood Watch and Community Alert, were published in January 2013. The guidelines give information and advice to help establish new community “watch” groups and also to revitalise existing groups where necessary.
Furthermore, a new Garda Text Alert Scheme, which was launched in September 2013, was piloted initially in a number of locations and developed in cooperation with Muintir na Tíre, Neighbourhood Watch, the Irish Farmers Association and related stakeholders. It provides a further mechanism for Gardaí to provide crime prevention information to community contacts who in turn forward the information to all members of a community groups. This initiative has developed as an important crime prevention mechanism with over 500 local groups involving in excess of 100,000 subscribers and with an estimated 200,000 text messages sent each month under the scheme. I am informed that every Garda Division, rural and urban, now offers the text alert service and An Garda Síochána have published guidelines to assist in the establishment and operation of local groups.
I am pleased to say that my Department continues to provide funding for the Community Alert programme, administered by Muintir na Tíre in partnership with the Gardaí, which supports the operation of over 1,300 local groups. An Garda Síochána also supports the operation of approximately 2,500 Neighbourhood Watch groups countrywide.
In August last year, in line with the commitments in the Programme for Government, I published new guidelines for the operation of Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) which have an important role in supporting local community policing partnerships. The guidelines were finalised following a wide ranging consultation process and take account of the general reforms in local government structures. The new JPC guidelines emphasise the need for collaborative approaches between all stakeholders to address local issues. They also underline the need for enhanced communication between JPCs, which have a strategic coordinating role, and the full range of local and community based fora which can contribute to the enhancement of community safety and support effective policing responses.
I can assure the Deputy that I share the Commissioner's commitment to proactive engagement with communities in addressing crime prevention and community safety issues, and that the arrangements and measures in place are under continuous review and development.