Community voice needs to be heard with regards to new policing model - Keena

RONAN FAGAN

There is a growing concern that Athlone will become a second tier location in regards to policing, as the potential negative impact on the town of the new Garda Operational Model begins to resonate with the public, local Fianna Fáil councillor, Frankie Keena, stated this week.

Under this proposal, the new Garda Division will encompass both Westmeath and Meath, the chief superintendent will be based in Mullingar and numerous superintendents working in community policing, drugs and crime, road traffic and governance, will be located throughout the Division.

“Up until now we always enjoyed the comfort of having a dedicated superintendent covering all aspects of policing based in Athlone garda barracks. Unfortunately, under this new proposal the status of the garda barracks will be downgraded as there will no longer be a dedicated superintendent in the town and district covering the day to day policing operations in the immediate vicinity. The highest rank personnel covering such work will be the inspectors,” Cllr Keena commented.

The councillor is also of the view that the Athlone Community Garda Unit may be possibly reduced in numbers to accommodate the numerous demands in policing.

“These are retrograde steps and are a cause of deep concern. We are all very much aware of the aggravated burglaries, drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and various crimes that are currently taking place in the Athlone area.

“To address such issues, Commissioner Drew Harris, in his wisdom, is now removing our dedicated superintendent covering all policing matters, instead of allocating extra gardai to the town.

“Athlone, as we are aware, is a regional growth centre with an increasing population and is rich in commerce, education and tourism. The protection of its citizens from criminals, thugs and anti-social behaviour activities is of paramount importance. We all need to feel safe in our homes and when going about our daily activities.

“It is a complete retrograde step to be reducing the level of policing at senior level in this thriving town. I am very much aware of the positive spin that Commissioner Drew Harris will say pertaining to this initiative which I am sure will work very well in some aspects, but I am also very much aware of the successful appeal by the community and politicians in Donegal to retain the autonomy of their county as a Garda Division,” Cllr Keena remarked.

The councillor is now calling upon concerned citizens to voice their disapproval of the changes mooted to all elected representatives within the constituency.

“My advice to all those citizens of our town who are concerned about this new initiative is to make your voice heard by contacting all Oireachtas members and county councillors in this constituency, including the Garda Chief Superintendent in Westmeath, Commissioner Drew Harris and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

“There will also be an opportunity to send submissions on this issue to the next Joint Policing Committee, the process of doing so to be advertised shortly. This decision needs to be immediately revised to allow for the retention of a dedicated superintendent in Athlone and District covering all aspects of policing.

“It is important that you make immediate representations on this as I am informed that the roll out of this initiative with regard to management staffing is imminent,” Cllr Keena concluded.

 

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