Rise in detection of drink driving

Detections for drink driving are up this year despite a significant drop in the number of people being breathalysed.

Garda traffic chiefs told the Policing Authority yesterday the rise in detections was due to a targeted approach to breathtesting.

In what was the Policing Authority’s inaugural public meeting with senior gardaí, led by commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, it also emerged there was a 70% satisfaction rate among the public in the gardaí.

The commissioner, flanked by six of her management team, dealt with questions on the 2016 Garda Policing Plan relating to community policing.

Traffic boss assistant commissioner John O’Mahoney told the authority that the number of detections of people driving under the influence of drink or drugs rose from 1,765 in the first quarter of 2015 to 1,833 in the same period this year. This was despite a signification reduction in the number of breathalyser tests, from almost 81,000 in the first quarter of 2015 to 67,500 in the first quarter of 2016.

Mr O’Mahoney said there had been “a lot of work on targeted policing”.

He said 78% of the country’s roads were rural roads and that was where most detections were made.

He said there had been 50 road deaths to date this year, up from 46 in the same period last year.

Deputy commissioner for operations John Twomey said there had been a 30% fall in fatalities and serious accidents in the country’s 100 blackspots in the last five years.

Questioned by authority member Judith Gillespie, a former deputy chief constable of the PSNI, on the impact of recent events on people’s fear of crime, Ms O’Sullivan said that recent murders had a “very great” impact on affected communities. She accepted that the need for reassurance in those communities had “never been greater”.

Mr Twomey said that part of the modernisation and renewal strategy for the force was the establishment community policing teams in each district, starting this year.

Civilian boss of Garda IT, Gurchand Singh said their survey found public confidence and trust levels in the force stood at 85%, and a satisfaction rate of 70%. He said the lowest satisfaction rate was among 18-24 year olds, at 64%, which he said was “still very high”.

Mr Singh said forthcoming questions in the survey would include: are you worried will you be a victim of crime; to what extent do you worry about crime; and how much does your fear of crime affect your quality of life. He said people would also be asked whether they believe there are regular patrols in their area and if the police presence was sufficient.

Authority member Bob Collins asked whether or not it was fair to say areas affected by station closures had not been compensated with an alternative police presence.

Ms O’Sullivan said they had invested in the Garda fleet and they made sure gardaí were “out engaging with the community”.

Questioned about the effect anti-social behaviour had on communities, Mr Twomey said 161 anti-social behaviour orders had been issued and that there would be a particular focus on public consumption of alcohol, including at beaches and parks, over the coming months.

Deputy commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin said the force had 794 text alerts schemes, with 140,000 subscribers.

READ MORE: No fireworks as authority prefers ‘soft power’

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