Rural policing is facing a fresh threat as falling Garda numbers begin to hit detective units and specialist squads hard.
Having already braced themselves for the imminent closure of 95 Garda stations this week, rural communities are now confronted with the impact of cuts to dedicated teams.
The cuts are hitting both detective units — which investigate crimes such as burglaries, robberies, assaults, sex crimes, and murders — and specialist squads, including drug units, crime prevention units and traffic corps.
The severe cuts to Garda numbers are forcing police bosses to remove officers from these dedicated units to fill holes in core, uniform policing. This is on top on unfilled vacancies in the detective units.
The Cavan-Monaghan Divisional Drugs Unit has been disbanded and its four gardaí and one detective sergeant have been re-deployed into the general force.
Garda bosses are now considering centralising local traffic units into divisional headquarters, which Garda sources say will hit both rural traffic policing and normal policing hard.
John Parker, president of the Garda Representative Association, said that Garda bosses are unable to cover the drain by drawing from regular units.
“As a result, the specialist and detective units will be hit,” he said. “The drug units, for example, are mostly filled by uniformed gardaí working in plain clothes.
“They are put into the units on placement, but they can be put back onto the regular at the stroke of a pen. When the squeeze comes, the units are downsized and possibly disbanded.”
Mr Parker said surveys were being conducted on the possibility of bringing traffic corps back from towns and into divisional headquarters.
“The towns where they are based will be at a severe loss, not just in terms of traffic policing, but also as a support to local gardaí dealing with a crime or incident,” said Mr Parker.
Mr Parker added that detective units generally were being hit with retirements and failure to fill vacancies, meaning the remaining detectives have more and more work.
Willie Gleeson, president of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, said rural communities were suffering a combination of problems.
“We have a moratorium on recruitment; we have gardaí retiring, we have stations closing and the amalgamation of districts and we have a deteriorating transport fleet — all happening at the same time,” said Mr Gleeson.
He said it will take longer for gardaí to respond to local areas given the state of the fleet: “The minister has said there will be 170 new vehicles, and that’s welcome, but they are being decommissioned at double that rate.”
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