New ‘Garda Safe’ system

A new high-tech communication system used for logging calls in the local garda division and wider northwest region was explained to members of the local Joint Policing Committee (JPC).

Inspector Declan McGarvey gave the presentation with other senior gardaí present - Cavan Superintendent Séan Grant and Bailieborough’s Gordon Englishby. He fielded multiple questions over the new system, which officially went live on March 20 last.

Operating from a Galway-based regional control room, Insp McGarvey says the ‘Garda Safe’ system endeavours to ensure the most appropriate resources are available to respond to calls from the public, including situations where a “local resource is not immediately available”.

Calls are routed through regional control rooms and “prioritised” for response, based on factors including the information provided and the level of response required.

The current Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system was first introduced in 1987. Replacement of the 35-year-old system was first recommended by the Garda Inspectorate over a decade ago.

The new system incorporates the latest control room technology including mapping, mobile computing, automatic vehicle and person location, as well as digital radio and telephone integration.

Calls are also recorded, and Insp McGarvey said the system is designed to deliver improved real-time decisions, more efficient and effective responses, safer deployment, and better reporting.

JPC members remained sceptical, however.

Fianna Fáil’s Patricia Walsh highlighted one incident where a member of the public became concerned by a potential incident of domestic violence on the street next to the bus station. The incident was reported, but the person was patched through to Galway.

Her belief was that the incident would have been handled more quickly from Cavan garda station, which was only a few hundred metres away. “It could have been more serious,” she said.

Cllr Philip Brady (FF) said, from speaking to members within the force, that they too remain unconvinced by the new system.

“It sounds great and, in theory, it will link in with a lock of years but there just isn’t the resources right now,” he remarked.

He also felt it important that local stations have “at least one” garda assigned to them, something agreed with by Fine Gael's Trevor Smith who said community gardaí play critical roles in towns and villages across the country.

Independent Cllr Brendan Fay agreed.

Senator Joe O’Reilly (FG) was told that legislation is set to be amended to allow garda cars carry cameras.

In respect of ‘Garda Safe’, Sen O'Reilly asked if its introduction was in response to a 2021 independent report that found '999' emergency calls made to gardaí were cancelled or that information given by members of the public was not recorded properly.

He was told this was not the case, and that the investment was planned.

Supt Englishby further stated that enquiry is “ongoing”.

Insp McGarvey concluded by telling the members, under questioning from Cllr Clifford Kelly (FF), that he was engaged in weekly meetings to tease out issues with the ‘Garda Safe’ system, as well as working out how best to maximise on its benefits.

“The objective is to provide a better service to the public,” Insp McGarvey told the meeting.

Others to participate in the discussion included Cllr Peter McVitty (FG) and chair of the JPC, Cllr John Paul Feeley (FF).