Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has predicted the size of the force will fall below 13,000 later this year — a level at which he predicts there will be difficulties in maintaining existing policing services.
The number of gardaí stands at 13,300 following the retirement of more than 1,200 members since the introduction of a public service recruitment embargo was introduced in 2009.
Mr Callinan said he hoped the recruitment of trainee gardaí could start as soon as possible.
He informed TDs that the authorities were well aware of his “strong view” that the number of gardaí should not fall below 13,000.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter has already indicated that he strongly favours not allowing gardaí number to drop below that threshold. However, Mr Shatter signalled recently that plans to recruit new members had to be put on hold over delays in agreeing an extension to the Croke Park public service pay deal.
The Garda Commissioner also revealed that he will probably need additional funding on top of his original policing budget of €1.272bn in 2013.
Mr Callinan said he was facing a shortfall of €36m in order to break even this year. He told the PAC that this year’s Garda budget already represented a 4.5% reduction on the 2012 budget.
Mr Callinan admitted that a 12% reduction in the number of fines issues to motorists last year represented a significant drop. He attributed the decrease to a combination of less traffic, improved driving habits and a reduced size of the Garda Traffic Corps.
He also conceded that waiting times for Garda vetting had deteriorated in recent months, with 70% of applicants facing delays of 10-14 weeks to get approval.
The Garda Commissioner told the PAC that three more Garda stations were scheduled to close during 2013 — two in Cork and another in Cavan.
On a positive note, Mr Callinan said a decrease in property-related crime recorded in the second-half of 2012 had continued this year.
He also told TDs that he was not in favour of speed cameras being used to detect motorists who did not pay their motor tax.
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