Garda Commissioner tells senior officers to reduce spending for rest of year

Senior sources say operational policing must be scaled back if savings to be made

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has told the Policing Authority he intends to come within budget, adding that he has informed senior Garda management who control budgets to find ways of making savings. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has told the Policing Authority he intends to come within budget, adding that he has informed senior Garda management who control budgets to find ways of making savings. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

 

Garda officers have been told to make savings so the force can stay in budget this year at a time when Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said some forms of serious crime, including sexual offences and public order, are increasing.

Senior Garda sources have told The Irish Times that operational policing will need to be scaled back through the country for most of the remainder of the year if the savings are to be made.

Areas they say are likely to be targeted for savings include local crime control; roads policing; anti-social behaviour policing; surveillance; and community projects.

In reply to queries, the Department of Justice said that while the “financial position” of the Garda was being “kept under ongoing review” by senior Garda management and the department, Mr Harris has been “very clear about prioritising frontline policing”.

In his latest report submitted to the Policing Authority, Mr Harris has revealed the overtime spend up to July was €48.7 million, some €3.7 million over budget, with the total pay subhead some €4.5 million over budget by July.

Overtime

It means spending on overtime will need to be reduced by €6.5 million for the last five months of the year if the 2019 overtime budget is to be met.

Mr Harris has told the Policing Authority he intended to come within budget, adding that he had informed senior Garda management who control budgets to find ways of making savings.

“Consideration is being given to areas where budgetary savings can be achieved in 2019,” he writes in his monthly report for July just submitted to the authority.

“Budget holders are actively implementing a range of corrective measures, capital and current, to ensure that expenditure is within profile over the coming months.”

Queries submitted to Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, about the cuts had not been replied to last night.

The new corrective action comes as property-related crime has begun increasing after a decline since 2015; increasing by 2 per cent nationally in the first five months of the year and increasing as much as 8 per cent in the Northern Region.

Crimes against the person, driven by assaults, are up by 7 per cent nationally in the 12 months to the end of May, with Dublin experiencing a 15 per cent increase. Public disorder is also up, by 8 per cent in the 12 months to the end of May, driven by a surge of 23 per cent in drunkenness offences recorded.

Sexual offences

The number of sexual offences being reported to the Garda is at record levels; 879 crimes in the first quarter of the year.

Some Garda officers have told The Irish Times that while the roll-out of new ICT projects and the purchase of new Garda vehicles, for example, had already been minimised for the rest of the year in as far as possible to save money, operational policing would now be impacted.

“You are looking at not doing proactive police work so you can control the spend,” said one.

“That means no proactive operations targeting things like crime in your area; cutting back on roads policing, anti-social behaviour policing, surveillance on serious criminals and community [policing] projects.

Perplexed

Another officer agreed, adding that superintendents and chief superintendents around the country had either spent discretionary budgets already or were coming close to it.

Garda officers say they are perplexed at the Government’s insistence that the cost to the Garda of the visit by US president Donal Trump to Ireland in June must come from within the annual Garda budget rather than additional monies being provided for it. They say such one-off events have always been funded with a supplementary budget.