Figures seen by the Offaly Express reveal that the number of officers in the Traffic Corps unit of An Garda Síochana in the Laois-Offaly division has halved over the last ten years.
The figures were released by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in response to a series of parliamentary questions. They show that in 2008, the Laois-Offaly Garda Division had 44 dedicated Traffic Corps members. The numbers for the most recent date available, namely December 2017, reveal that the strength of the Laois-Offaly Traffic Corps has fallen to just 18.
The number of gardaí in the Laois-Offaly unit fell steadily after the Garda recruitment moratorium from its highest point of 44 in 2008 to 42 the following year. By 2013, it had reduced to a force of just 24 officers in the Division.
In response to parliamentary questions on this issue, Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "I am informed by the Commissioner that the total strength of the Roads Policing Units (Traffic Corps) on the 30 November 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 643 nationwide."
The national Traffic Corps boasted 1,093 gardaí in 2008, but despite the notable decrease in numbers across the country, Minister Flanagan maintained that, "this Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime."
To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. "We are making real, tangible progress on achieving
this goal," Flanagan said.
Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 1,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. Garda numbers, taking account of retirements, increased to 13,552 at the end of 2017 - an increase of over 600 since the end of 2016.
"I am also pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the
Garda College. Also 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, reach 14,000 by the end of 2018," Minister Flanagan said.