The failure to appoint a new community Garda in east Wicklow since January is having a ‘significant impact’ on the local area according to Cllr John Snell.
Community Garda for Wicklow town, Rathnew and environs Marco de Luca was relocated to Garda Headquarters in January and the position has yet to be filled. Cllr Snell said that his departure has left a ‘huge void’ in the area.
‘The impact is significant, particularly on the ground. There is no link between the young people and An Garda Siochana,’ he said. ‘My main gripe is that people are saying crime doesn’t pay but unfortunately, this is not ringing true. People are seeing those involved in crime and drugs and the profits that are to be made. We need people on the ground highlighting the fact that we don’t want people getting involved with drugs and antisocial behaviour.’
Cllr Snell went on to say that interaction between the Gardai and the local community has proven to be very beneficial to all in the past.
‘People will wonder what difference one person makes. But even the sheer fact of having somebody who is going in to speak to local kids has a huge benefit for everyone,’ he said. ‘The only time when young people will see the Gardai now is when they come across them in a Garda car and in my opinion, it’s too late then.’
According to Cllr Snell, the drugs problem in the east Wicklow area is a worsening issue and he feels that interaction between the guards and the community is vital in order to tackle it.
‘I can say without fear of contradiction that the drug problem is escalating and getting to a point that there is a certain acceptance. That level of acceptance is unacceptable when you have people thinking it is ok to be in possession of drugs,’ he said. ‘Anybody who knows anything realises that it is a huge issue in the area and it is getting worse.’
Cllr Snell said that he has been in touch with local community groups asking them to write letters calling for the urgent appointment of a new community Garda.
When contacted about the empty position, Superintendent Paul Hogan said that the position was to be filled ‘at some stage’ but ‘not in the immediate future’ due to a lack of personnel.
‘We are very aware of the situation,’ he said. ‘We also have to go through an interview process so that would delay the process a bit.’
Supt Hogan said that interviews for the position had not yet commenced. When asked whether the lack of community Garda was having an effect on their work, he said: ‘We don’t have the capacity to do all of the things that we would like to do. We have other gardai filling in for the school visits.’
‘We are not running the transition year programmes at the moment. Front line policing has to take priority.’
Supt Hogan said that they try to meet all of their commitments in the area. He said that the main things affected by the lack of a community garda are crime prevention exercises.
‘We do have other members filling in but nobody has the full-time position,’ he said.
(First published in the Wicklow People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/wicklowpeople/news/we-need-a-new-community-garda-and-fast-34682840.html)