Fewer than three in 10 garda stations in Cork have experienced an increase in staffing levels in the past four years, during a period when almost 2,600 new gardaí were recruited.
Official figures show just 20 of 73 stations in the county have more gardaí now than at the end of 2014 when the Garda College in Templemore was reopened to facilitate a major recruitment drive.
The majority of stations, 40, have experienced no change in staffing levels while 13 stations have fewer gardaí now than in 2014.
Figures published by the Department of Justice show the total number of gardaí assigned to stations across the Republic has risen from 10,977 at the end of 2014 to 12,006 at the end of March 2019 — an increase of 1,029.
A total of 138 newly- qualified gardaí have been assigned to stations across the three garda divisions in Cork over the same period.
However, the number of gardaí assigned to stations in Cork has experienced a net increase of 111 to 1,350 due to the effect of other gardaí retiring and leaving the force.
The biggest reduction in staffing has been in Blackrock where numbers have fallen from 32 in 2014 to 20 by the end of March last.
Stations in Glanmire and Bridewell have also seen their levels cut by four over the same period, 18 and 25 respectively.
In contrast, the biggest increase has been in Anglesea Street in Cork city where numbers are up 38 to 313 since 2014.
Staffing levels in Mallow are up 15 to 65, while in Midleton, they are up 11 to 62.
There are 10 additional gardaí in Fermoy and Clonakilty bringing their numbers, respectively, to 64 and 43.
Larger stations which have experienced no change in garda numbers in the past four years include Youghal, Charleville, and Macroom.
Garda stations in Ballydehob and Ballydesmond remain operational although neither station had a dedicated garda assigned to them since before 2014.
Sinn Féin justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the figures backed up what TDs had been hearing from communities all over the country.
“The increasing demands of specialised units, while very important in themselves, has meant that gardaí are being lost to the core units who patrol and prevent crime in communities and are often not being replaced,” he added.
Mr Ó Laoghaire said, for that reason, he believed the cutting of garda overtime and the force’s annual budget as well as only recruiting 600 gardaí instead of the planned 800 this year was “a bad decision”.
“Garda visibility is the best way of tackling and preventing crime, but we don’t have enough gardaí on the beat, and criminals will notice that,” the Cork South Central TD said.
A Garda spokesperson, meanwhile, said management closely monitored the allocation of resources in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies.
“Senior garda management is satisfied that a full and comprehensive policing service continues to be delivered and that current structures in place meet the requirement to deliver an effective and efficient policing service to the community,” said the spokesperson.
Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan said the hiring of new recruits this year combined with 600 new civilian staff would allow the garda commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully-trained gardaí to frontline policing during 2019.