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Text alerts by gardai may go nationwide

A MAJOR review of the garda text alert system is being undertaken ahead of plans for a nationwide rollout.

A number of areas across Dublin have already been connected to the alert scheme in what has proved to be a major boost for community policing.

Garda stations use the system to send out text alerts in individual neighbourhoods and estates, highlighting suspicious activity and road closures.

And some communities connected to the scheme have seen significant drops in burglaries and public order offences.

Garda management is now examining whether to roll out the system across Ireland.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter confirmed that the matter is being reviewed.

"I am informed by the garda authorities that text alert systems may be used by gardai to alert the community in relation to suspicious activity or vehicles in their area, appeal for information, inform the community about road closures or to provide crime prevention advice," he said.

"The content of the messages sent is vetted locally by An Garda Siochana.



systems

"There are at present two local text alert systems operating within the Dublin Metropolitan Region.

"An Garda Siochana is examining text alert systems to determine whether it is feasible to roll out such systems nationally."

A key factor in the scheme's success has been in enabling Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators to send out text alerts about reports of suspicious vehicles and individuals.

The Herald reported in May that a three-man Dublin gang was caught by gardai in the midlands with the aid of an alert system.

Community alert volunteers sent text messages to hundreds of people, who ensured the movements of the gang's car was tracked until it was abandoned by the occupants.

Labour TD Tommy Broughan said initiatives such as text alerts should be present in all communities.

"Community policing is very important and having this type of system allows gardai to directly inform residents of dangers and issues that impact on them. It should be implemented in communities nationwide," he said.

noconnor@herald.ie