Staffing problems are hitting garda armed support units, the national fraud unit, divisional squads tasked with investigating sexual and domestic crimes, and regional cyber crime units.
A report by the Policing Authority said that despite progress in recording sexual and domestic violence – including ten incidents of the new offence of “coercive control” - only a fifth of domestic abuse victims were getting a personal call back within seven days of the offence.
But the Authority commended An Garda Siochana for making “substantial progress” against commitments in its 2019 Policing Plan – and praised it for introducing new reform projects, such as the recently published Operating Model for restructuring the organisation.
Publishing its half-year assessment of the Garda's performance against its policing plan, the Authority also highlighted an increase in road 'lifesaver' detections and the redeployment of 230 gardai to frontline duties.
The Authority said staffing problems were hitting various units targeting organised crime and sexual and domestic violence.
“Staffing issues are a recurring challenge, affecting a number of areas including the expansion of armed response capacity and the roll out of Divisional Protective Services Units,” it said.
The Authority said:
The expansion of armed response capacity across the regions is experiencing difficulties with staffing. The June target for the Armed Response Units was to achieve capacity to provide a 24-hour service in the DMR, Southern and Western Regions
“Although capacity has increased, it is not yet at the expected level.”
It said the Western Region ASU had received five new members and was operating 20 hours a day. It said challenges for coverage were exacerbated by pressures which the ASU is facing in the Northern Region, referring to tackling a violent gang feud in Drogheda.
“The concentration of activity around Louth means that the Western Region ASU is being called to cover Donegal and other parts of the Northern Region.”
It said the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and Regional Cyber Crime Units “continue to be at risk due to staffing issues”.
It said staffing issues were also affecting Roads Policing and the Human Rights Unit and could impact the Commissioner's new Anti-Corruption Unit.
While the Authority welcomed the rollout of Divisional PSUs to all divisions by the end of this year, it said the new squads were affected by having too many crimes to investigate and staffing problems.
Garda HQ last night said it was aware of staffing issues at specialist units and said they would be staffed up over the next two years through recruitment and redeployment.
The Authority welcomed an increase in reporting of sexual assault, with an average of 288 recorded offences per month compared to 243 per month.
It also noted that ten incidents of coercive control had been recorded, referring to the new domestic violence offence that was enacted last January.
But it said progress was “less positive” on other targets, including call backs to victims of crime.
“Measuring in-person contact within seven days with victims of domestic abuse has increased but still only stands at 22%,” it said. “This has only increased by 2% over the last three months, and it is not clear how the 40% target will be achieved by the end of the year.”
It said there was also little progress with reducing the number of missing person incidents requiring review.
The Authority said it was disappointing that it could not assess Garda performance in relation to crime and detection targets, as the policing plan did not have any. It said Garda detection figures were “known to be unreliable”.
It said it had “consistently highlighted” problems around “key enablers” of reform and investment – in the areas of ICT, accommodation and HR – and that these issues “will become more pressing”.
Overall, the Authority welcomed the “clear sense of pace, effort and direction” by An Garda Siochana in delivering its 2019 Policing Plan.