Biggest policing change ‘in 20 years’ via new Garda app

Technology being rolled out among community gardaí, regular units and immigration officers

The force is keen to  stress the wider implications of the mobile devices beyond roads units. File photograph: Collins

The force is keen to stress the wider implications of the mobile devices beyond roads units. File photograph: Collins

 

An app that enables instant access to Garda intelligence and databases for beat gardaí has been described by the force as “the biggest change to policing in Ireland in 20 years”.

The Active Mobility App gives “every garda the ability to be technically a data station”, according to Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan. The innovation has been trialled by the Roads Policing Unit.

The assistant commissioner said the force will this week double the number of apps on Garda-issued Samsung mobile phones. This will bring to 5,000 the number of gardaí on patrol who will have instant access to intelligence circulars, information stored on the Garda Pulse system, data shared by the Police Service of Northern Ireland as well as databases relating to driver, licensing and vehicle records.

Expanding from the Roads Policing Unit the app is now being rolled out among community gardaí, regular units and immigration officers.

Gardaí showcased the system on the public road between Naas and Newbridge in Co Kildare on Thursday, using hand-held devices to scan registrations of passing vehicles, automatically checking them against databases provided by the National Car Test Service, insurance industry, roads safety authorities and intelligence circulars among others.

Sgt Brian O’Loughlin said in the past officers were given books of forms for issuing fixed-penalty notices, which had to be filled in at the roadside by individual gardaí, before being taken to the station and checked by a sergeant who would forward them to a processing station in Thurles, Co Tipperary. A fine would then be issued to the driver of a vehicle.

What about GDPR?

Since the system had been introduced by roads units, the number of digital fixed-charge notices issued had exceeded 102,000 from July 2020 to may 2021. Processing time had droped to less then 16 days for 80 per cent of cases – an improvement on a previous average of six weeks.

While a number of drivers had their vehicles seized as result of Thursday’s checkpoint in Co Kildare, the assistant commissioner was keen to stress the wider implications of the mobile devices beyond roads units.

“Our vision [is] for every garda to be equipped with a mobile device in their pocket so they scan be active in the community without going back to the station [to check records] has now been realised,” he said.

He said the the only data collected from the public was in relation to breaches of the law and there was no breach of GDPR legislation. If a car registration was scanned and failed to indicate any breach of regulations then that data would not be stored, he said.