The latest figures released by the Irish Times and the Central Statistics Office have revealed that the two stations chosen for closure in Co Leitrim this year had both seen a dramatic increase in the number of offences recorded in the 12 months before their closure.
In Drumkeerin criminal offences recorded doubled from 2010 to 2011, while Kiltyclogher had a 45.5% increase in crime in the same time period. Of the 20 offences recorded in Drumkeerin last year over half were theft and burglary related while in Kiltyclogher all 11 of the committed offences for the area were for “theft and related.” The figures also showed an almost 30% increase of crime in Kiltyclogher since 2007- this was the third biggest increase in offences in the county over that period.
Despite the large increases in the two areas last year, both stations were closed earlier this year as part of an ongoing campaign of ‘rationalisation’ led by Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter. Kiltyclogher Garda Station closed in March, while Drumkeerin closed it’s doors in April. Locally there was outrage over the closures with over 900 protest signatures being collected with numerous calls for a reversal of the decision from members of Leitrim County Council.
Minister Shatter has said he believes the current level of garda stations country-wide is unsustainable and he has recently asked Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to identify further stations for closure in 2013.
He cites the fact that reported crime has fallen from its peak in 2008, however, there is a fear that the falling number of crimes recorded is giving a false impression with many experts attributing the decline to a drop in reporting of minor crimes in particular by the public. Concern has also been raised about the closure of garda stations and reductions in gardai which mean that limited resources are being stretched across a much wider area.
In late 2010 there were 14,600 gardai nationally, this number is expected to fall to just 13,000 by the end of 2014. The number of garda cars have also been reduced nationally and a freeze has been put in place on recruitment.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has recently issued a press statement stressing its objection to “the recent and proposed cutbacks in policing budgets”.
Speaking on the issue, Deputy General Secretary, John Redmond said that the cuts will have a detrimental impact on delivering quality policing to the community.
“We are concerned that the proposed station closures and Garda district amalgamations, together with the depletion in Garda numbers and diminishing Garda fleet will have a significant negative impact in the quality of service delivered to the public,” he told the Leitrim Observer.
The AGSI stated, “Garda management have thus far failed to engage with us on this issue, referring to the cuts as ‘rationalisation’. They must engage with us on this issue or the needs of Irish society are at risk.”