There are 338 fewer Garda cars on the road now than in 2010 — and a large percentage of the remaining fleet is due to hit the mileage limit soon.
Senior Garda sources have told the Irish Examiner that the fleet faces a “transport cliff” caused by the sharp drop in the size of the fleet and the imminent retirement of many more.
Additionally, following the closure of 139 Garda stations over the last year, district and divisional commanding officers have to police much larger areas with far fewer cars.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he was dealing with the impending crisis through the rollout of 213 new vehicles this year.
In addition, Mr Shatter is giving a further €5m to the Garda fleet, which is expected to result in the purchase of a similar number of vehicles.
“An Garda Síochána are provided with sufficient resources to enable them to provide an effective and efficient police service,” said Mr Shatter.
However, senior Garda sources and Garda staff bodies said that the new cars, while welcome, will not even cancel out the number of cars that have to be retired.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors estimates that about 350 cars are retired every year because they have reached 300,000km.
Figures released by Mr Shatter show there were 2,402 Garda cars as of Jan 31, compared to 2,414 in 2012, 2,623 in 2011, and 2,740 in 2010.
“We are facing a transport cliff” said one senior Garda source. “The problem we are facing, I am facing, is not the closing of rural stations — it’s not having enough cars to patrol the areas affected. We can’t get out to the areas.”
The source said most cars were bought in 2007 and were heading for the 300,000km mark.
“The extra vehicles might get us through a year, but beyond that it will hit,” said the source. “And transport is a pillar of what we do. We need to be seen to be out there, to act as a deterrent.”
John Redmond, general secretary of AGSI, said: “The thing is, we won’t get away with it for another year. The cars are all going to reach their end of life at the same time.”
Mr Redmond said the new cars will be allowed clock up 500,000km: “Remember, these are just family cars, they are not specially built for police. They are not meant to be driven to such an extent.”
In separate figures released to the Dáil, Mr Shatter said that €10.7m was spent in 2012 on maintaining cars and motorcycles in 2012.
Mr Redmond questioned the logic of spending so much on keeping ageing cars going: “We are seeing cars being maintained at any cost to keep them on the road.
“There shouldn’t be separate budgets for buying and maintaining budgets. Also, why aren’t they considering other options, like leasing out cars?”
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