An Garda Síochána has revealed that over one million text messages have been sent to over 100,000 people since the Text Alert scheme established, to alert communities about potential criminal activity in their local area. The Text Alert scheme was first developed by the Community Relations Bureau of An Garda Síochána in conjunction with Muintir na Tíre in 2007 and was piloted successfully in the Garda Division of Kerry in 2008.
The Text Alert scheme was officially launched in September 2013 by the Gardai in conjunction with Muintir na Tíre, Neighbourhood Watch and the Irish Farmers Association.
More than 100,000 people have signed-up to the scheme from 550 community groups in towns and villages in Ireland. Text Alert enables communities to set up a Group to receive alerts advising them of suspicious or criminal activity in their area. As well as ensuring awareness among users of the service, it can also lead to them reporting suspicious activity to Gardai.
How does it work?
* A member of the public reports incident to the Gardaí
* The reporting Garda verifies details and determines that the “Text Alert” system should be utilised
* A Garda sends a text or an e-mail out to each registered “Community Contact” in their Garda District
* Each “Community Contact” forwards the text to their “Community Group” to advise the public to watch out and report any developments
* If the information is received by e-mail the Community Contact may forward the e-mail or convert the content to SMS Text and send to their Community Group
An example of the success and its effectiveness can be seen in a recent case of theft in the Midlands. A male reported the theft of his vehicle to Gardaí and identified a suspect vehicle involved in this theft. It was also believed that this suspect vehicle had been involved in the theft of another vehicle the day before. A text alert was sent out to targeted areas regarding the suspicious vehicle. Acting on information received back, Gardaí were able to intercept the vehicle. As a result, four males were arrested for theft of items, and a file is being prepared for the DPP in relation to the taking of the vehicles.
Each Text Alert group must satisfy certain scheme protocols before they can formally register with An Garda Síochána, and they may also have to raise finance to allow for dissemination of the received Garda Text through the employment of a Service Provider, if they so choose. This means that each of the Text Alert groups must be well organised and is indicative of the demand for the service from An Garda Síochána.
Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan said: “We have found that as an immediate, cost effective method of engagement with the communities we serve, Text Alert is invaluable. It would appear from these levels of usage the public also feel it is a valuable way to help prevent and tackle crime.”
Mr John Hogan, President of Muintir na Tíre remarked that: “The Community Text Alert programme, in partnership with An Garda Síochána has allowed communities to rapidly exchange information, and gives communities a say in policing in their own areas.”
Mr. Patrick Walsh from Neighbourhood Watch said, “Communities have experienced a reduction in burglaries since we engaged with Text Alert, and the scheme will help to sustain the continued effort by both the Gardaí and Neighbourhood Watch members”.
Mr Eddie Downey, IFA President stressed the scheme’s importance in preventing rural crime. “The IFA continues to support Community Text Alert as a vital tool in preventing rural crime. We recognise the significant impact this service can have in supporting the safety of rural communities. IFA is working closely with An Garda Síochána to continue to roll out text alert initiatives across our branch structure and further strengthen our Community Text Alert network,” said Mr Downey.