Gardaí are “at their wits’ end, demoralised, and at breaking point, and no longer equipped to protect large swathes of rural areas” because of cutbacks.
That is the claim by the president of the Garda Representative Association, which represents 11,200 frontline gardaí.
John Parker said that rank-and-file gardaí were operating on “a shoestring budget” and in many cases were not carrying out “anti-crime patrols in rural areas” in order to preserve the ageing fleet of vehicles.
He said gardaí were being forced to cut down on patrols to prolong the life of vehicles, which have to be taken off the road after clocking up 300,000km.
“In years gone by, gardaí were out patrolling outlying villages and towns. Patrols are now more confined to mounting checkpoints at high traffic volume areas to present high visibility. Criminals are not meeting gardaí on rural roads. Thus rural communities will suffer from not having the service they deserve.”
He said that, on average, one patrol car was taken off the road every day because it had reached the 300,000km limit. There would be a total of 80 replacement cars this year, resulting in a loss of 280 vehicles.
“This can’t keep continuing. In some cases gardaí can’t leave their own station to give assistance to colleagues because there is no spare vehicle available. The official figures show burglaries having increased by 15% in the first quarter of 2012, together with an 8% rise in the full year of 2011, cumulatively 23% is an indictment of the madcap policy of underfunding policing.”
Gda Parker described householders and businesses in rural areas “as sitting ducks” because patrols have been reduced.
“I’m not crying wolf,” he said. “Gardaí now only go out to rural areas to deal with calls. The Garda College [Templemore] is as good as rotting. Only a few token training courses are taking place and no recruits are going in there.”
He said gardaí were increasingly frustrated and many were leaving or asking about career breaks. He said if Mr Shatter spoke to rank-and-file gardaí, he would be told “to his face that they have lost confidence in Government’s handling of crime and policing”.
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