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Question

285. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will fund or part-fund community alert groups to cover their increased costs and in particular the costs of text messaging, in view of the value of the groups to local gardaí and the necessary work they are undertaking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3684/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Community Alert groups are key partners in relation to the Garda Text Alert Scheme, which was launched in September 2013 and was piloted initially in a number of locations 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 group. 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.
For many years my Department has provided funding for the Community Alert programme, which is operated by Muintir na Tíre in partnership with the Garda authorities, and supports over 1,300 local groups. My Department does not provide direct funding to local groups, but funding is provided in relation to the employment and associated costs of the national service, including 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. I am currently providing the maximum possible funding to Community Alert that is open to me, having regard to the overall restrictions on my Department's resources and other expenditure needs. I understand that funding for Community Alert is also received from the HSE.
More generally, I am advised that the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government supports the Community and Voluntary Sector through a suite of schemes with a particular focus on supporting communities that are vulnerable, disadvantaged or under threat. A community organisation may qualify for inclusion under one or more of these schemes, should it meet the terms and conditions of a particular scheme managed by the Department. Further details are available on the Department's website at www.environ.ie