Stark ongoing collapse in garda figures

The numbers of community gardaí have been axed by almost 40% in the last seven years and continue to fall in many divisions.

Stark ongoing collapse in garda figures

It includes a stark and ongoing reduction in Dublin’s north inner city, despite it bearing the brunt of a murderous campaign by the Kinahan crime cartel.

Community leaders there said “while the figures are dropping, the bodies are dropping”.

Other busy divisions experiencing significant reductions include Dublin’s south inner city, Waterford, Cork North and Cork West, Limerick, and border counties. In Co Donegal, community police numbers have collapsed, from 35 community gardaí in 2011 to two in 2017.

Figures released to Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire show the number of community gardaí fell from 1,112 in 2011 to 691 in 2017. The Cork South-Central TD said the number of community gardaí has “fallen off a cliff and, indeed, is still falling”, describing it as “scandalous”.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) said the 38% fall in community policing was “very disappointing” and said reversing it should be a priority for Garda management and government.

Marie Metcalfe, co-ordinator of the Dublin North East Inner City Community Policing Forum, said gangland activity was “running the country” and deciding “who lives and who doesn’t”.

She said the community does not feel safe and that people were like “sitting ducks” waiting for the next outrage to happen.

It comes on the back of the funeral on Wednesday of Derek Coakley Hutch, the fourth member of the Hutch family gunned down by the Kinahan cartel, and the shooting dead of his friend Jason Molyneaux in the area on Tuesday night.

Half of the 14 murders linked to the Kinahan-Hutch feud have occurred in the north inner city. Figures show community policing numbers in Dublin North Central fell from 140 in 2011 to 90 in 2017, a drop of 36%.

The figure continued to fall since the feud began in Dublin in early 2016, falling from 121 gardaí in 2015 to 110 in 2016 and to 90 in 2017.

“With the feud in the last two years, all we are getting is dropping figures and while the figures are dropping, the bodies are dropping,” said Ms Metcalfe, who has been involved in the local community policing forum for the last 18 years.

She said people in the north inner city were feeling “very raw” and “panicky” and that they “don’t know what’s going to happen next”. Ms Metcalfe said she had met many “amazing community gardaí” over the 18 years, but said community policing should be a “strong unit” that gardaí see the value working in, know is respected internally, and has a career structure.

She said the Mulvey report into the north inner city was a long-term project, and that “a short-term action plan” was urgently required “to make people feel safe”.

Dublin's south inner city saw a 70% fall in community gardaí since 2011, including a 12% drop since 2016.

Figures in Donegal collapsed by 94% since 2011, with a 48% drop in Limerick, a 44% reduction in Waterford and a 43% cut in Louth. Numbers are down 25% in Cork North and 20% in Cork West.

“As elected representatives, we know from working with designated community gardaí that the difference a good community garda can make to an area and individuals and families is huge,” said Mr Ó Laoghaire. “It can be transformative. They also improve public confidence in policing locally.”

GRA spokesman John O’Keeffe said: “Frontline members in this jurisdiction are part of the communities they serve — it is only right that their numbers should reflect the important place that such units have in both the discovery and prevention of crime as well as ensuring solid community relations.”

Speaking on the murder of Mr Molyneaux, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “My message to the perpetrators and their associates is that there is no hiding place for such activity, there is no place for such brutal heinous murder in our capital city, and every effort will be made by An Garda Síochána to ensure the persons responsible are brought to justice.”

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