A REDUCTION IN the number of Garda Traffic Corps officers has left a number of busy national routes with little to no garda cover.
There are still active Garda jeeps on the motorway system – but the reduction in traffic resources mean it’s no longer possible to deploy one for each motorway route.
This means that major roads like the M50 now rely on Garda units who just so happen to be travelling along the motorway as part of their daily work – for instance, on the way from the Criminal Courts of Justice, near the Phoenix Park, back to suburban stations.
Many garda cars travelling on the M50 come equipped with an automatic number plate recognition system which will alert officers if the car in front of them is without a valid tax or NCT disc.
Most squad cars also have alcometers and speed detection cameras on board.
Gardaí have promised that more Traffic Corps jeeps will be in service in the coming weeks.
A recruitment process is also in place for the traffic section and new positions have been advertised internally within An Garda Síochána.
In addition to ongoing shortages of vehicles, many members of the traffic unit have also voiced concern over the appointment of young, newly-recruited members being placed on secondment to the corps for a 10 week period shortly after their year-long probation period.
Many more senior officers are frustrated this programme due to the relative inexperience of these new gardaí – who are only out of Templemore a short time.
While sources have said the new recruits “need all the experience they can get”, the argument of the more senior officers is that the new gardaí haven’t been trained to deal with traffic enforcement, and that their time would be better spent at local stations.
When contacted for comment, a garda spokesman said that recruitment within the corps is to increase by 150 this year.
“At all times, An Garda Síochána’s focus is to protect lives on the road by reducing fatal collisions through preventative and enforcement measures. Thankfully, road deaths in 2017 were significantly down on 2016. Ireland has one of the best road safety records in Europe.
An Garda Síochána has publically said at meetings with the Policing Authority about providing newly qualified recruits with a 10 week secondment in the Traffic Corps. This has helped us to maintain enforcement activity and also provides recruits with valuable road policing experience that will benefit them in their future careers in An Garda Síochána.
“The Traffic Corps use jeeps for a range of activity across the motorway network including the M50. Additional new jeeps have also been purchased and will be used on motorways in the next month or so.”
It is expected that by February 2018, 70 new members of the Traffic Corps will be selected. A further additional 80 members will be selected for the Traffic Corps on a phased basis during 2018. In other words, there will be an additional 150 members appointed to the Traffic Corps during 2018.
The number of full-time equivalent gardaí working in the Traffic Corps has fallen from 940 in 2011 to 643 last year.
The figures, which were given to Fianna Fáil transport spokesperson Robert Troy, show a steady reduction over the past six years across all counties.
There were 1,093 gardaí in the traffic corps in 2008 – that number has almost halved in the past 10 years.
Troy said that the drop in the number of gardaí assigned to roads policing duties was “disproportionate when compared to other areas of the force”.