Days before Detective Adrian Donohoe was shot dead by armed raiders in Louth last week, two senior garda told The Irish Post it was only a matter of time before a member was murdered in the line of duty.
In this Special Report, garda sources reveal an insight into the problems they face. The homes of more than 6000 elderly people have been broken into in Ireland in the last 18 months and gardai say they haven’t the resources to cope.
EVERY night when he gets home from his shift he checks the doors and windows of his home to make sure they’re locked and secure. Upstairs his family sleep quietly, but for him, peace of mind is difficult to come by. As an experienced garda, he knows burglars will get in if they want to; he knows what going on outside at night and that things are getting worse.
With more than 10 year’s service, he has taken more burglaries call-outs than he cares to remember. He’s stood on too many driveways, in the dark and the cold, taking statements from distressed homeowners who woke in the morning to find a door forced and their car gone.
He knows too, from interviewing repeat offenders, that increasingly, burglars are carrying knives and weapons in case they’re disturbed and the gangs which are roaming the country’s highways and byways are violent, ruthless and growing in number.
Crime figures demonstrate that burglaries in Ireland rose by eight per cent last year and the Garda Representative Authority (GRA) which represents 11,200 of the forces 14,500 members, told The Irish Post that in some counties the rate of house-breaking has increased by 30 per cent.
And while the crime figures grow Ireland’s police force has been diminishing with two members telling The Irish Post the force is now in crisis.
According to the GRA, a combination of pay cuts, a lack of resources, a moratorium on recruitment since 2009 and a lack of opportunities have all had a deep and damaging effect on moral.
This has created a culture of shortcuts.
The General Secretary PJ Stone stated that certain areas in Ireland “were now impossible to police,” while a spokesman for the GRA told this newspaper that: “Burglaries were now the crimes everyone was trying to chase.”
Yet, some members say they are being held back from giving chase by a lack of resources and the kind of budget restrictions which make proper policing impossible.
It has always been the perception that Ireland is a safe place to live but that assertion is on shaky ground. The Government closed 39 Garda stations in 2012 and intend closing 100 more this year, reducing the number to 564.
One retired Garda with over 30 year’s service said the closures were no major cause for alarm because technology and efficiency could help fill any gaps left behind, however, it is also estimated that there are 588 fewer patrol cars on the road compared with 2009 while it has been suggested the fleet that is there is old and in bad need of an upgrade.
“Criminals know that there are less gardai on the roads and they know there is a lesser chance of getting caught as a result. Unfortunately, that is why we are seeing a rise in burglaries,” said John Parker of the GRA.
Last week, elderly people living in rural communities suffered another blow when the Government announced that they intended to cut funding for panic alarms from €2.45m to €1.15m.
This, coupled with the closures around the country and the removal of community officers, has left elderly people worried about their safety according to Eamon Timmons from Age Action Concern.
“In 2007, every political party in Ireland believed you needed 16,000 gardai to police the country and soon it will be down to 13, 000,” said a GRA spokesman.
“The Garda Siochana is very different from the police force in Britain. The gardai here have to do everything from border control to counter espionage. There is no MI6 or border agency, the police here have to do an awful lot more than the police in Britain because they are tasked with a lot of jobs that would be the responsibility of other agencies in Britain.
“There are three basic rules in policing, crime increases during a recession, when you reduce police numbers and when morale is reduced.
“Whether Ireland is less of a safe place to live than it was is beyond my remit to answer, but there are fewer police officers and an increase in burglaries.”
The force in Britain has suffered cuts too, however the Metropolitan Police Press Office told The Irish Post that they anticipate recruiting between 1600 and 2000 officers in the next two years and a commitment has been made to putting more officers on the street.
“In the 1970s, the force in Ireland was around 6000 for a population of around three million but drugs and crime wasn’t a main feature of Irish life then like it is now,” said a senior Irish security source. “Burglaries now are widespread and this is creating a lot of fear in rural areas. It has gone to serious proportions – there is less men on the beat and the administration is top heavy.
“When you don’t recruit, the profile of your members becomes static and mature. People talk about losing experienced people but there is no substitute for youth and enthusiasm. But is society more dangerous? Well you have to remember that the last garda murdered by shooting was Gerry McCabe in 1996. If you measure that stat against any other police force in the world, you are unlikely to come up with a better ratio.
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