Covid-19 leads to fall in community policing in north Dublin
Regions with biggest drops in resources include centres of gangland feuding
The pandemic has been classified as an ‘exceptional event’ by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, with gardaí working 12-hour shifts. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The redeployment of Garda members to front-line duty during the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a drop in community policing in areas of north Dublin worst affected by gangland feuding and that had been earmarked for regeneration and investment.
Information released to Social Democrats joint leader Róisín Shortall shows the number of gardaí deployed to community policing falling in north and east Dublin last year but increasing in the south and west divisions of the county.
Ms Shortall, a TD for Dublin North-West, said the data showed a 56 per cent drop in the number of gardaí deployed to community policing in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) North Garda division between 2019 and late last year.
DMR North Central had seen a decline of 11 per cent in community policing personnel. At the same time, DMR South had retained the same level of community policing resources, DMR South Central had seen a 17 per cent increase and DMR West had a 16 per cent increase.
In total there were 274 Garda members involved in community policing in Dublin last October compared with 301 a year earlier.
The Garda divisions in north Dublin – which include the north inner city and suburbs – that have seen their community policing units depleted have witnessed significant policing challenges in recent years.
DMR North includes Ballymun, Coolock, Raheny and Balbriggan, which had endured several gangland feuds and anti-social behaviour. DMR North Central covers the area of the north inner city covered by Store Street and Mountjoy Garda stations. It has been significantly affected by gangland feuding for more than a decade, including the ongoing Kinahan-Hutch feud, and is regarded as a the base of most of those involved on the Hutch side.
It was also earmarked for special investment and policing attention under a regeneration plan compiled by Kieran Mulvey, formerly of the Workplace Relations Commission, and published in 2017.
Ms Shortall said gardaí had proven crucial over the past year in “keeping local areas safe and healthy”.
“In addition, we are seeing ongoing problem with crime and anti-social activity in local communities which, in some cases, has increased during the restrictions,” she said.
“It is really striking and disappointing, then, to see that the number of gardaí assigned to community policing has actually decreased in Dublin this year, especially in the Dublin North division, where there has been a 56 per cent drop in strength.
“The Department of Justice refers to community policing as ‘the heart of An Garda Síochána’, but where is the commitment when it is needed most?” she asked, urging Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to “build up the strength of our community gardaí”.
In reply to queries, Garda Headquarters said a contingency Garda roster had been introduced last March for the Covid-19 pandemic and remained in place. The pandemic had been classified as an “exceptional event” by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, with gardaí working 12-hour shifts.
“Community policing units were distributed between the four new units at the discretion of local management,” it said.
“An Garda Síochána has been consistent throughout our response to the Covid-19 pandemic that every member of An Garda Síochána is involved in community policing. This has seen, and will continue to see, gardaí working with communities to keep people safe.”
In DMR East there were 25 community policing gardaí in 2019 and 21 last October. DMR North saw numbers drop from 39 in 2019 to 17 last October.
In DMR North Central community policing numbers dropped from 75 to 67 and in DMR South was 48 in 2019 and 49 last October. In DMR South Central, the numbers increased from 48 community gardaí in 2019 to 56 last October and increased in DMR West to 76 last October, from 66 in 2019.