Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Community Safety and Preventing Crime: Statements
Community policing should be at the heart of every town and village in Ireland, with gardaí walking the streets, talking to local people and aware of what is happening on the ground. As the Minister will know, our own county of Meath has the lowest number of gardaí per head of population in the country. As Deputy Catherine Murphy noted, there is one garda for every 580 people. That is a shocking figure and I hope that she will be able to address that.
If a crime takes place in Athboy or my own town of Oldcastle, it can take up to an hour for a Garda patrol car to arrive. Drug dealers are openly selling drugs on the streets, destroying young people's lives. These drug dealers and criminal gangs are relocating to rural areas. They see our towns and villages as safe havens where there is not much chance of getting caught. Johnstown in Navan has a population of between 10,000 and 12,000 people. It has no Garda station. This is another issue I hope the Minister can address. How can An Garda Síochána and community groups work together if there is no Garda station? Moreover, gardaí only man some Garda stations on a part-time basis.
The job of a community garda is to provide an accessible Garda service to the community; establish effective engagement to meet the needs of local communities; use problem-solving initiatives to tackle crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour; engage with young people to develop positive relationships and promote personal and community safety; be accountable to the community they serve; and work with other agencies. These are all great ideas, but without gardaí on the streets or working in Garda stations full-time, none of these initiatives will be successful. We also need more community facilities for young people. We must help them out in any way we can. We need more funding for drug addiction services, which do great work.
I wrote the Minister to ask for a meeting and she said that she would meet me. Some of the issues I wanted to raise are the low number of gardaí per head of population in County Meath, the need for a Garda substation for Johnstown in Navan and areas like Oldcastle and Athboy and the need for full-time deployment of gardaí.