Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Department of Justice and Equality
Community Alert Programme
101. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to extend to all community groups funding for the text alert and community alert schemes (details supplied) in view of the fact that they play an invaluable service to the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51683/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 101 together.
As the Deputies will be aware, the Programme for Government underlines the need for close engagement between An Garda Síochána and local communities. This is an essential feature of the strong community policing ethos which has long been central to policing in this jurisdiction. The Deputy will also be aware that as part of the overall strategy to oppose criminality, the Garda authorities pursue a range of partnerships with community stakeholders; for example, the well established Community Alert Programme and the highly successful Garda Text Alert Scheme to name but a few.
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. In this regard I welcome the strong emphasis placed by An Garda Síochána on the Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021, on further developing and supporting the community policing ethos of the organisation so that Gardaí spend more time in the community, gaining public confidence and trust and providing a greater sense of security. Proposed initiatives include the establishment of local Community Policing Teams (CPTs) headed by an Inspector and made up of Gardaí from across a range of areas to proactively work with the community to prevent and detect crime; and the establishment of Community Safety Fora in every District comprising local Gardaí, local communities and key stakeholders.
Since the Community Text Alert scheme was launched in September 2013, it has developed as an important crime prevention mechanism with over 700 local groups involving in excess of 130,000 subscribers and with an estimated 200,000 text messages sent each month under the scheme. Every Garda Division, rural and urban, now offers the text alert service and An Garda Síochána has published guidelines to assist in the establishment and operation of local groups.
The Deputies might wish to note that funding from my Department is not used to provide direct assistance to local Community Alert (or Text Alert) Groups.
Community Alert funding is allocated by my Department for the employment and associated costs of the national Community Alert programme, including the employment of regional Development Officers. These Development Officers, operating in Muintir Na Tíre, provide support to Community and Text Alert schemes and offer advice on how to establish new schemes. The long-standing view has been that this is the best use of the resources available to the Department to support effective community crime prevention actions.
At the National Ploughing Championships this year, I was pleased to announce that an additional €100,000 was being made available to Text Alert Groups, registered with An Garda Síochána, to provide modest financial assistance with the running costs they incur each year. This Text Alert Rebate Scheme will be administered by Muintir na Tíre and Groups wishing to participate at the Scheme can find more details at www.muintir.ie.