Chief Supt John Scanlan
Laois Garda numbers are at their highest in 100 years resulting in a shift to a more traditional model of policing, according to Laois Offaly’s Garda Chief.
Welcoming this shift in policing, Chief Superintendent John Scanlan said there is a move to have more gardai living in the communities they serve.
“We are probably significantly greater in number on the ground than we have ever been in the history of the organisation in 100 years. We have more people on the ground then we ever have had before in this county,” he told a Laois Joint Policing Committee meeting.
While positive about recent allocations of Gardai to the district, Chief Supt Scanlan said he will never stop asking for more resources on the ground and more are required.
“When I came here ten years ago we had one Inspector in Portlaoise. We now have ten in the two counties now. We didn’t have those types of figures between Laois and Offaly when I first came here. We had three when I came here, so we now have seven extra,” he remarked.
“We have seven extra guards since the last meeting, six extra Sergeants so as I said at previous meetings, when we have Sergeants they will be deployed,” he told the meeting.
Chief Supt Scanlan said: “There’s now a Sergeant in Mountrath, one going back into Rathdowney, an extra one in Portarlington and the rest of them here in Portlaoise. That gives us a profile across the county of having three Sergeants in Portarlington which in a historical sense was never there before.”
Speaking of the new Sergeant in Mountrath, he said, “he is actually going to actually occupy the official accommodation there. That means he is living in the place, so that’s another plus.”
As each outturn of probationers leaves Templemore, Laois continues to get a share of those, the Chief Supt remarked. “We have made a big effort to try and locate people who are going to make their homes in these areas. To try and go back to more traditional models of policing,” he explained.
He said improvement work was due to take place on Stradbally, Borris in Ossory, Mountmellick and Portarlington Garda Stations. Work has already been carried out in Arles and Clonaslee, Chief Supt Scanlan told the meeting.
He said almost all of the buildings are getting public access work done. “The challenge is to get the architecture done and get the jobs in. The money is there for them. Getting the work and the labour done is the challenge,” he remarked.
“What we have achieved in Laois and Offaly is that we are now stopped, we had two stations that were closed when I came here ten years ago. Nothing has closed since or won’t be closing in my tenure here. I have got that reassurance that all the garda stations that we still have we will retain.”
Elected members at the meeting welcomed the Garda allocations but asked for visible and familiar policing in their communities.
Laois TD Brian Stanley suggested putting pictures of the local Gardai in shops in their area. He welcomed the progress but said the absence of foot patrols remains an issue. Deputy Stanley said steps should be taken towards “improving the connection between the local gardai and the community.”
He said people should also be made aware of the opening times of part time stations. “I just want to welcome the increase in the number of gardai in the county,” he added.
Cllr James Kelly welcomed the growing numbers of Gardai and said: “We are all very happy that the Garda numbers are up and Inspectors are up three to ten.”
Cllr Conor Bergin acknowledged the rise in Garda numbers which he described as “very positive” for the county.
Minister of State, Sean Fleming also welcomed the increase in Gardai in the county. “I think we all have to recognise there is increased visibility, there are more guards in the community which is fantastic to see,” he remarked. “We want to see that continue in Laois,” he added.
Chief Supt Scanlan said “I am aware that a lot of the guards that are being redeployed now and some of the Sergeants... live in official accommodation.”
He expressed his belief that this return to a traditional type of policing would be positive. “We haven’t had some of this kind of experience in about 40 years, so we are moving to that space and it is a good space to be in,” he remarked.
In terms of familiarity of communities and their Gardai, Chief Supt Scanlan said he would take all of the suggestions on board. “I will endeavour to do community engagement pieces around getting the new guards that are going into these areas known to the public,” he said.
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