Garda numbers are up in the Laois Offaly division, but it is a struggle to keep up with retirements, according to Chief Supt John Scanlan.
“We are trying to keep pace with retirements. There have been 15 new gardaí appointed in the last couple of months, that’s an extra 8 to ten when you take retirements into account. We are getting new staff but we continue to need new members, I fully acknowledge that,” he said this week.
Nine new sergeants are being appointed in May. Some are being promoted internally, others are coming from outside the division.
“I expect more Gardaí as the year progresses,” he said.
Crime figures are down from last year, with Operation Thor, the crackdown on gangs using motorways, “helping significantly”.
In Laois, burglary is down 29 percent in 2016 so far, compared to the same period in 2015. There were 171 burglaries by April last year, dropping to 122 so far this year.
However Chief Supt Scanlan is reluctant to put much store in figures.
“What good is that if you are one of those burgled? The Gardaí will never be redundant, there will always be people interested in crime. As the economy improves we will see an increase in areas like drink and drugs, while other people will no longer turn to crime to make ends meet. There is never room for complacency,” he said.
The improved roads in Laois make it easy for crime.
“There are several motorways going through the division, as well as good secondary roads, mobility of criminality has improved with those roads,” he said.
“We have made an impact, but as to the future, that’s a challenge we face,” he added.
Investment is starting to be made on the county's Garda stations also, with hopes to lengthen opening hours in some of them, such as Rathdowney.
“We are beginning to see stuff done that we couldn’t get done up to now. It is all part of investments in infrastructure and investment is ongoing,” the Chief Supt said.
The redevelopment and extension of the district station in Portlaoise is however slow, with no timeframe yet agreed for the works.
“We are drawing up plans at the moment but there is no timeline and no other information yet,” a Garda press office spokesperson said this week.
It is one of over thirty facilities earmarked across Ireland for refurbishment in the next five years under the Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme.