The new Garda Chief Superintendent responsible for the Longford Roscommon division has said the location of the drugs unit in Roscommon is something that will be reviewed in the coming months, if the need arises, but at present there are “no plans for it to move.”
In an exclusive sit-down meeting with the Longford Leader, Chief Supt Padraig Rattigan said he “will be looking at the scale of the problem and will be acting accordingly. If we see that Longford needs additional resources we will find them. We will be looking at the spread of people, and if the problem is more extensive, we will find more people,” Mr Rattigan said emphatically.
“Everyone knows there’s a bigger problem with drugs in Longford than in Roscommon, but just because the unit is based in the station in Roscommon does not mean that it spends all of its time there; a significant portion of its time and resources are pumped into Longford. I would say as it is, 80 percent of their time is spent carrying out operations or investigations in Longford.”
When pressed if it made more sense to re-locate the unit to Longford, Chief Supt Rattigan replied, “I hope people haven’t the perception that because the unit is based in Roscommon they never come to Longford; that’s not the case. A garda station is just a building. Operations and targeting is always happening in the greater Longford area.
“We also have to take into account the gardai who applied for this unit based on it being in Roscommon, so there are lots of different factors to look into, but I will do that,” he stressed.
The loss of experienced members of the gardai in the division has also been an issue, but there are hopes that a number of posts for sergeant will be filled in the coming months, a move which would make “a huge difference” to policing in the division.
“We did have an accelerated recruitment in the recent past, and a number of those gardai now have six or seven years of service. Obviously, they don’t have the level of experience or knowledge and that’s a disadvantage but there are very good quality people in this division.”
Chief Supt Rattigan said gardai are currently undergoing a major transformation of the current roster system which is hoped will allow the maximum amount of gardai to be in place at the times when they are needed most.
“This is one of the biggest changes ever undertaken by the force. There will be an overlap of shifts which will allow us to have more people on when they are needed most, at weekends and at night. At present I can’t reassign any resources until these new rosters are in place. It’s a huge change for the organisation, ” Chief Rattigan said.
At a recent Longford Town Council meeting, councillors criticised the previous Chief Supt for declining to meet councillors, but Chief Supt Rattigan said he would see no problem in meeting with councillors, or attending a JPC meeting in liaison with the Supt in Longford if the need arose.
“I’ve always been very open with the media, the public and elected representatives, just as Supt Denis Shields is here in Longford and that will continue,” Chief Supt Rattigan stressed.
Given the spate of recent burglaries, the Chief Supt admitted these types of crimes are becoming more common.
“Unfortunately, burglaries are very prevalent at the moment, and they’re very hard to police. There’s no pattern to them at all. Last week we had a number of robberies and with the help of the rural text alert scheme and a notice on Shannonside we were able to arrest four men and bring them to court.”
As a predominantly rural area and given the spread of the countryside in Longford and Roscommon policing such vast areas is a difficulty but it underlines the importance of community watch and the continued use of the rural text alert scheme, Chief Supt Rattigan said.
Despite the recent change of legislation in the Defence and the Dwelling Act 2011, and a high-profile case within the county, Chief Supt Rattigan does not have a concern for an increase in vigilantism.
“There’s certainly no evidence to suggest there is more vigilantism or even the risk of it. There is legislation there to allow people to act in a certain way but I don’t think it will become a problem.”
Much has been made of the cutbacks to resources in the Gardai, but the Chief Supt believes this division is “managing.”
“There’s certainly not the same level of transport as before; we just have a sufficient fleet at present, but some of that is going to have to be replaced in the future, and we need that to be done,” Rattigan warned.
Chief Rattigan also said it was “sad” to see the continuation of feuds in Longford “over and over again.” Rattigan said Longford Supt Denis Sheilds had invested a lot of time into negotiating with the people and families involved.
Rattigan admitted policing these feuds was a difficult area for the guards.
“For us there’s two ways to approach this. One is through mediation with the people involved and secondly when an incident takes place to gather evidence and present it to the courts. Most of all, there’s a huge responsibility on the people involved to step back and have a good look at themselves.”