THE implementation of a new multi-agency strategy, including a pilot community cadet programme, will help Gardaí engage more actively with older people in rural communities.
And despite a reduction of 93 Gardaí in the division over the past four years, Limerick Chief Garda Superintendent Dave Sheahan says they are determined to ensure that the needs and priorities of older people are met to highest possible standard.
He told the Limerick Post that he aims to have the new programme operational after Easter when “community cadets, aged between 13 and 18, will engage with older people in their own communities to ascertain what their needs and concerns are.
“The cadets will report back through the community alert system and other supervised measures that will allow us respond appropriately and link in more effectively with the community.”
With a divisional strength of 561 Gardaí supported by 53 civilian workers, the Limerick ratio of population to Garda members is in line with the national average of 350:1.
Over the past year, there has been a three percent drop in reported crime and Chief Supt Sheahan says that maintaining this is essential.
“We would all like to see more resources available, but we are where we are in terms of resources.
“The implementation of the community policing strategy is a key focus. It is dedicated to achieving public safety, public confidence and public accountability through the prevention and reduction in crime; the promotion of community safety; higher visibility; enhanced community focus and localised cooperative problem solving.
“We want older people to have confidence in our services and to feel safe and secure in their homes. We want them to be able to access the services of the force and to communicate with us without hesitation through a variety of methods.”
The community cadet programme is set to be piloted in Caherconlish and Chief Supt Sheahan said that through “supervised, Garda-led training, the cadets could prove to be a valuable tool to allow us deliver a timely and effective proactive response for older people.”
From there, it is expected that the programme will spread to the wider Limerick area and could be run through transition year student programmes or with groups like Foroige.
Chief Supt Sheahan outlined a number of other community led initiatives that have been set up to combat rural crime.
Following on from Garda advice on tackling thefts from vehicles at churches and graveyards, he said that one parish had developed a system of constant patrols to deter those unlawfully interfering with vehicles.
There will also be a city-wide roll out of the community text alert system in the coming weeks.