The number of people signing up to a Text Alert service from their local Gardaí has more than doubled in just three years according to new national figures.
Fresh figures released by the Garda Crime Prevention National Centre of Excellence today show that as of April 2017, a total of 1,085 Text Alert schemes exist around the country, including a Longford-Roscommon Scheme.
There are currently 13,939 individuals subscribed to 66 text alert schemes in the Longford-Roscommon area. This is the third highest number of subscribers in Ireland, following Kilkenny-Carlow (15,026 subscribers) and Tipperary (21,540 subscribers).
The increasing popularity of the scheme is the result of a concerted drive by An Garda Síochána to raise awareness of text alert service, which was set up in conjunction with Muintir na Tíre and Neighbourhood Watch.
Under the Text Alert service, subscribers signed up through community schemes receive alerts from Gardaí advising them of suspicious or criminal activity in their local area. It also supports existing Community Crime Prevention Programmes.
One successful outcome involved an elderly person with dementia who went missing in Dublin. They were located after a text alert appealing to the local community for help was activated by Gardaí.
Sergeant Amanda Flood of the Garda Crime Prevention National Centre of Excellence, said: "The Text Alert scheme has grown from strength to strength over the past three years as more communities appreciate the value of setting up a scheme in their local area. In 2014, there were 80,000 subscribers. This grew to 130,000 the following year and now we are just shy of 200,000 subscribers, which really is a testament to the effectiveness of the service.
"The feedback we are getting on the ground is that it has a reassuring effect on local people who know they will be informed by text if suspicious activity is detected locally. It gives people a sense of ownership over the safety of their local community.
"An Garda Síochána’s close relationship with communities and the support we get from them is vital in preventing and tackling crime, particularly in rural areas. We can achieve greater results by working in partnership with the community. The Text Alert scheme, which was introduced by An Garda Síochána in co-operation with Muintir na Tíre, Neighbourhood Watch and the Irish Farmers Association, is an excellent example of this.”
Niall Garvey, CEO of Muintir na Tíre, said: "Text Alert has been a vital tool for Community Alert groups preventing crime in their areas. It is an effective and efficient communication system but it is much more – if implemented properly it brings community groups together. It is that coming together that protects the community and particularly the vulnerable members. We look forward to continuing our partnership with An Garda Síochána in the delivery of Community Alert and Text Alert.”
Patrick Walsh of Neighbourhood Watch added: "The effectiveness of the Text Alert scheme has rejuvenated many of our Neighbourhood Watch groups, and its success has been proven by the fall in burglary rates. It has been an extremely successful scheme to date.”
The Garda Community Text Alert System is a communication process from An Garda Síochána to the public and is an enhancement to existing Community Crime Prevention Programmes such as Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch.
The Community Text Alert System has been designed in consultation with Community Alert (Muintir na Tire), Neighbourhood Watch and the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).
Community Text Alert encourages people to report suspicious activity to the Gardaí who in turn will relay verified and appropriate crime prevention information to the public. The emphasis is on preventing crime through active partnership with communities.
The service is community driven and provides a mechanism for a community or residents association to register a "community contact” with their local District Headquarters (Garda Station).