Garda resources and visibility were the two recurring themes at last night's Meath Joint Policing Committee meeting held in Trim Castle Hotel.
The annual public meeting which gives members of the community and local representatives the chance to put questions to senior Garda and Council figures heard from a number of speakers in relation to response times, juvenile crime and anti-social behavior, as well as the issue of Garda presence in some of Meath's border areas.
Attendees were told that on some weekends there was only one patrol car available in Navan and that it took 10 gardai to keep one patrol car on the road on a 24/7 basis. Garda numbers in the county - currently at 313 - were below the national per capita average but the meeting heard that 10 new recruits were joining the Meath ranks this week with five of those to be based in Navan.
Alan Lawes and Cathal Mooney from Johnstown raised issues at the JPC meeting around Garda response times and CCTV installation
The meeting, which was chaired by Cllr Trevor Golden was held against the backdrop of recently released crime figures that show certain types of crime in the County such as burglary and theft of property had risen 44 per cent in recent months.
"No level of crime is acceptable and trying to tackle it is a difficult job. You will have seen from reports recently that the crime rates are up in Meath but it's up nationally so we are not unique in that sense, Chief Supt told the audience.
"We have challenges and we accept that we have challenges but you must appreciate as well that we have an extensive motorway network in the county that we didn't have in the past. We have the M1, N2, M3 and N4 cutting straight through the county and it brings people in from other areas with ease of access and that's a new challenge for us to deal with."
"We have an expanding county and population, particularly with commuters which brings its challenges. And we have to fight for our resources here in Meath. Like every other Garda Division and agency around the country we have to argue our case and put our case to the Commissioner. You can't go to the table unless you have your facts and figures and certainly here in Meath those figures stand out and tell their own story."
Questions were also raised about the extension of Navan's CCTV system to other towns and communities such as Johnstown which has a population of over 10,000 people. "We are looking at the CCTV system and extending it, however there are issues around finance. There is a requirement for projects of this nature that there would be an input of 40 per cent by the local community and 60 per cent by the State. I would be anxious that something would be put into the Johnstown area to provide cover to the various housing estates and especially around the schools area."
Chief Supt Fergus Healy answering questions at Trim Castle Hotel
Chief Supt Healy said the recent launch of the Duleek CCTV system was a 'beacon' for such projects all over the country and he could understand why communities were anxious to install them where possible.
Mr Alan Lawes from Johnstown a Neighbourhood Watch chairperson in Johnstown asked that information on call and response times to local garda stations be made available.
"We're getting complaints constantly about the response times we're getting. The only way we can make a case to the Gardai and the Commissioner is if we know, and the politicians know that information. Maybe then the Government can commit the proper resources to make sure those response times come down and be improved.
Other issues raised at the meeting included speeding HGVs through Longwood, the lack of police presence in border areas such as Enfield and Lobinstown as well as issues concerning the reporting and data on wildlife crime.
For more on this see next week's Meath Chronicle