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Some western counties have nearly twice as many gardaí on the streets as those in Leinster - but why?

The spread of gardaí around the country displays a clear imbalance according to new figures.

File Photo Budget 2018. Additional 800 gardaí to be recruited during 2018. Another 500 civilians to be hired also. End. Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THERE IS A clear discrepancy in the number of gardaí stationed in different counties around Ireland, new figures show.

Some western and Munster counties have one Garda on station for every 350 people or so, while Leinster counties Meath and Kildare top the list for scarcity of officers per head of population.

The new figures have been released to Sinn Féin TD for Meath West Peadar Tóibín by the Department of Justice, and detail the number of gardaí stationed in the 28 different Garda divisions around the country.

Taking that information and comparing it to the populations of each county per the 2016 Census shows the large differences seen in Garda allocations across the country.

In Meath, there is one Garda on site for every 661 people – in Kildare the figure is 649.

The average number of gardaí per county overall, meanwhile, is 443.

Tóibín’s take on the figures is unequivocal: “It’s very clear that Meath, Kildare and Laois are especially suffering due to the massive increase in population not being met with an increased level of Garda resources,” he told TheJournal.ie.

“Some counties have 35% more gardaí than the average and some counties have 34% less.”

The figures are startling.

Breakdown

Garda numbers aren’t recorded by county but by division, hence certain counties have been amalgamated.

The full breakdown of the per capita Garda figures is as follows (note these figures only account for gardaí stationed in individual districts, a figure of 11,198 – the overall number of gardaí in Ireland as at end June was 12,859):

1 (1) Spread of gardaí per head capita Source: Department of Justice/CSO

As such, the greatest density of gardaí is seen in Sligo/Leitrim, Westmeath, Roscommon/Longford, Limerick, Clare, and Dublin, all of which have one Garda for less than every 400 people.

Meath, Kildare, Wexford, and Laois/Offaly have the lowest proportion of gardaí per capita – with the two north-eastern counties, both of which have rapidly expanding populations, in particular serving as outliers – Wexford has a Garda for every 539 people, compared to the figure of 649 in Kildare.

Nor do the figures appear to correspond to the prevalence of crime – in 2012 for example Roscommon/Longford was seen as one of the safest counties in the country with just 325 offences committed per 10,000 people (the national average was 532) – likewise other western counties like Donegal and Mayo. All three regions have among the highest numbers of gardaí as a proportion of population.

2 Total number of gardaí versus 2016 population Source: Department of Justice/CSO

Unclear

The reason for the disparity in Garda numbers is not immediately clear. A statement on the matter had not been made available by An Garda Síochána at the time of publication.

Garda allocation itself is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner.

In the response to Tóibín’s parliamentary question, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan stresses:

“I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that personnel assigned throughout the country, together with the overall policing arrangements and operational strategies, are continually monitored and reviewed.”

90401854_90401854 Peadar Tóibín Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

In regard to the deployment of Garda personnel, a distribution model is used which takes into account all relevant factors including population, crime trends, and the policing needs of each individual division.
I am advised by the Garda Commissioner that recent census data is currently being incorporated into the personnel allocation model.

“Kildare, Wexford, Laois, and Offaly all have at least 20% less gardaí than the average,” says Tóibín. “Meath has one Garda for every 661 people. Westmeath on the other hand has one for every 332. Meath has half the amount even though the two counties are located right beside each other.”

It is to be expected that there would be a certain variance between counties – very rural counties would require a larger number of personnel to cover the ground despite having a low population, and crime rates also vary.

“The truth is, however, that all counties have been hit due to the moratorium on new gardaí that was introduced in 2010. Now that has been lifted there is a need for the allocation of new gardaí to be informed by population changes in the interim,” he added.

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