Demand for garda text alert scheme doubles

Demand for the garda text alert scheme to prevent crime in local communities more than doubled in the past three years.

Demand for garda text alert scheme doubles

More than 190,000 subscribers are now registered with the service that alerts them to suspicious or criminal activity in their local area.

The service provides a mechanism for a community or residents’ association to register a “community contact” with their local garda station.

It also supports established community crime prevention programmes.

It was established by the gardaí in late 2013 in consultation with Muintir na Tíre, the Irish Farmers Association, and Neighbourhood Watch.

Latest garda figures show there are 1,085 text alert schemes and 191,181 individual subscribers. In April 2014, there were 80,000 registered subscribers signed up via community schemes.

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The Garda Crime Prevention National Centre of Excellence says the scheme’s increasing popularity is the result of garda efforts to raise awareness.

Gardaí provide information by text or email to each registered community contact and they then forward the information by email or text to members of their community group.

The text alert scheme is a one-way communications system. Initial contact with the gardaí must be made in person or by telephone to control and verify information.

When a member of the public reports an incident to the gardaí, the officer receiving it confirms the details and decides whether or not the text alert system should be used.

The garda sends a text or email to each registered community contact in their district. The community contact forwards the text to their community group to advise people to watch out and report any developments.

The highest number of subscribers are in Tipperary (21,540), followed by Kilkenny-Carlow (15,026), and Roscommon-Longford (13,939).

Cork has the lowest number of subscribers (3,113).

One successful outcome involved an older adult with dementia who went missing in Dublin where 79 schemes are operating with 7,990 subscribers.

The person was found after a text alert appealing to the local community for help was activated by gardaí.

Sergeant Amanda Flood from the Garda Crime Prevention National Centre of Excellence said more communities appreciated the value of setting up a scheme in their local area.

“In 2014 there were 80,000 subscribers. This grew to 130,000 the following year, and now we are just shy of 200,000 subscribers, which really is a testament to the effectiveness of the service,” said Sgt Flood.

“The feedback we are getting on the ground is that it has a reassuring effect on local people who know they will be informed by text if suspicious activity is detected locally. It gives people a sense of ownership over the safety of their local community.”

Niall Garvey, Muintir na Tire chief executive, said Text Alert is more than an effective and efficient communication system — when implemented properly it brings community groups together.

“It is that coming together that protects the community and particularly the vulnerable members,” said Mr Garvey.

Patrick Walsh of Neighbourhood Watch said the text alert scheme has rejuvenated many of their Neighbourhood Watch groups, and its success has been proven by the fall in burglary rates.

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