The Irish Times view on attitudes to policing: a mixed picture

A new survey makes a compelling case for further changes to Garda procedures

While more than two-thirds of those surveyed for the latest Garda Siochána public attitudes survey believed national crime was either a ‘serious’ or ‘very serious’ problem, that figure fell to 16 per cent for local crimes.

While more than two-thirds of those surveyed for the latest Garda Siochána public attitudes survey believed national crime was either a ‘serious’ or ‘very serious’ problem, that figure fell to 16 per cent for local crimes.

 

Like the curate’s egg, the latest Garda Siochána public attitudes survey has good and bad parts. Responses like “don’t know” or a refusal to reply are generally excluded from analysis, providing a more flattering perception of the force. That said, it is hugely positive that gardaí continue to attract extremely high and consistent levels of trust and approval within the community.

Four out of five people were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the policing service provided and 72 per cent regarded it as being community focussed. But although 82 per cent said gardaí listened to the concerns of local people, only half believed they were “dealing with the issues that mattered” while a further 36 per cent felt community relations with the Garda Síochána was “poor”.

This disconnect manifested itself in a number of ways. While more than two-thirds of those surveyed believed national crime was either a “serious” or “very serious” problem, that figure fell to 16 per cent for local crimes. Policing visibility remained a problem, with more than half of those questioned being unaware of local garda patrols and, perhaps as a result, favouring a larger police presence. At the same time, a majority of those questioned had no concerns about becoming a victim of crime, suggesting a largely relaxed, law-abiding society.

Attracting a 90 per cent level of public trust and an even higher level of belief that members of the force would treat them with respect if they reported a crime, the need for further administrative reforms might appear fanciful. But it remains the case that only 85 per cent of crimes are reported and, of these, only two-thirds of complainants are satisfied with the outcome.

Asked whether the Garda Síochána treated everyone fairly within local communities, some 15 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the proposition, while a further 20 per cent declined to express an opinion. Those figures make a compelling case for further changes to Garda procedures and interactions with the public.

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