If the recommendation in a new report, urging gardaí to become more visible within communities, is followed, it will be the "biggest factor in recent years in addressing localised crime".
This is the view of Independent city councillor Mike Cubbard, the chair of the Joint Policing Committee for Galway city, who has "wholeheartedly welcomed" the Commission on the Future of Policing report, which was published on Tuesday.
The report proposes a number of major reforms for the gardaí, including a new approach to policing and community safety, to ensure gardaí are more visible in communities; measures to deliver a professional, ethical, modern, and effective police service that is well-managed, cost-effective, properly trained, and equipped; a new coherent framework for the independent oversight of policing and community safety, with a clear mandate for effective scrutiny; a new framework for national security, headed by a national security coordinator.
'A patrol car driving through an estate to show visability is not enough and is simply ticking a box for the garda and not providing the service required'
Cllr Cubbard said the call for a greater emphasis on gardaí in the community was particularly welcome. "The most prominent issue raised both at committee level and directly by constituents is the clear lack of visibility in terms of gardaí on the beat and the lack of community policing available," he said.
He believes community policing is "crucial to prevent" theft, burglary, drug dealing, and vandalism. While he emphasised that "there are many excellent community gardaí in Galway", Cllr Cubbard said their "role is hampered" by being regularly re-deployed to local sports events, festivals, etc. This prevents them from "getting to know the community they serve" and from "building up a level of trust and rapport with possible offenders, which in itself prevents crime".
"Growing up in Westside, and many others will agree it was the same in their communities, you knew your community garda," said Cllr Cubbard. "He or she was on the beat daily and gave a sense of security to those more vulnerable than others. This is the model we must return to. A patrol car driving through an estate to show visability is not enough and is simply ticking a box for the garda and not providing the service required."