Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Community Safety and Investment: Motion [Private Members]


10:30 am

Photo of Rebecca MoynihanRebecca Moynihan (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank Members for their engagement on the motion and their support of it. Most of them particularly recognised the focus on community policing in it, which the Minister referenced in her speech. Unfortunately, as regards how she referred to it, I do not think she got what community policing is. She talked about how, in policing, all police will be community police. While that may seem very laudable, it is not very good when it comes to the reality on the ground. I am able to get up in the Chamber and, 30 years on, remember the name of my community policeman and know him. If I asked anybody who has either represented people in the Rialto-Dolphin's Barn area, or grew up, knew the area, or had a business there, they would all be able to name that one person. Community policing has to be local, knowledgeable and recognisable to people in their area every day and, crucially, it has to be consistent. Unfortunately, what has happened to community policing is those core things have been undermined.

Community policing is not what is seen on television. It is not the glamorous thing that some people might join for, but it is good core policing. Good community policing creates a layer for all the other layers of policing. Other types of policing are very important, including specialist and intelligence policing, but they are consistent with having core community policing services. To say that everybody should be responsive to the community and everybody is a community police officer is fine in theory. I understand it, but it does not recognise what happens on the ground. It means that people do not recognise who their local community police are because they are moved on so much. It is not consistent, recognisable, knowledgeable and, crucially, local, as people are moved around.

While Members were speaking, I looked at a journal article by a former community garda, Trevor Laffan, referenced by Senator Boylan. He spoke at a conference in Barcelona in 2009, where he said that our community policing system was the envy of police forces around the world because we had the type of intelligence that they just could not get through and penetrate, as we were dismantling that system. Part of that dismantling of the system included the new roster system. I ask the Minister of State to look at what would attract community police into that day-to-day policing. The existing roster, where everybody can bounce in and out of it, is simply not good enough and is not accessible. I do not know what the experience is like in rural Ireland, which the Minister referred to, but it is certainly not the experience in Dublin that people are able to pick up the phone and get through to the community policing section. First, a number of people are in that section. People do not always consistently get the person they are calling. Second, often, the call will ring out and bounce through to a 999 call. That is not consistent, recognisable, knowledgeable or local, and all the things that community policing should be.

I welcome the Minister's comments. I particularly welcome the fact that members of the Opposition got what I was trying to do, what I said, and what I was trying to get at. However, the Minister fundamentally misunderstood it in her speech, which was probably written by officials who do not have experience of places such as inner city Dublin, where there are very at-risk people and very at-risk youth, which requires that consistent and visible policing every day. We just do not have it. Communities are crying out for it. People are terrified walking home to their houses. We have a situation where the red line Luas is being used by gangs of young kids. Sometimes, what they are doing is not the worst in the world, but it is intimidating to people. It is intimidating to older people who are using the Luas and everybody going around, but there is no visible policing on that red line Luas. A private security firm hired by the Luas operators does that policing, but nobody is making an effort to get to know those kids, where and who they come from, and what stops they are getting on and off at. They are going from the area where I live to the area where Senator Sherlock lives. Gangs of them are coming down. That is the type of thing where community policing comes into its own when we do it. Unfortunately, we do not have it. We have dismantled it. We had a much better system 20 years ago then we do now, despite what the Minister said.


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