The Waterford Community Safety plan was launched this week in Waterford, this followed months of very intensive market research across the city and county population of 127,000.
The plan was devised following large scale public consultation, conducted by means of focus groups, paper and online surveys culminating in the collection of roughly 11,000 participants opinions.
A market research firm based in Donegal did a thorough job on the numbers, they also did pop-up personal presentations outside supermarkets and elsewhere around the county, from Lismore to Tramore and Dungarvan to Waterford city.
There are many major findings, for example 20 per cent of women living along are afraid to go out alone at night and for over 65s this rises to 25 per cent.
Men also have with 11 per cent less likely to contact someone for help.
Seán Aylward, Chairman of the Waterford Community Safety Plan, noted a number of findings from the report. The main takeaway from the report is the public perception of the need for more Gardai and resources. A massive 72 per cent want more Gardai on the streets and out around the community where they live and work, and want increased Gardai presence on the streets.
Increased Garda presence, particularly at night-time was raised at previous meetings of the committee.
In addition, people want more support for those affected by substance abuse and misuse, less leniency for anti-social behaviour and stronger sentences for such in the courts.
More counsellors are required to aid the number of individuals affected by substance abuse and contact numbers for facilities must be distributed greatly.
Regarding increased Garda presence, Waterford has 318 full time Gardai across the city and county, but if you take on the various shift patterns, time spent in court and doing desk work plus holidays, sick leave and training, it could be estimated that there would be 60-100 on actual outside duty depending on particular days. This would also include traffic Gardai.
Mr Aylward believes that overall, there is strong social cohesion in Waterford and lots of community support for law and order among many other positives to build on and strengthen.
The independent chair claimed some small wins can be achieved for simple things like worries over street lighting. Better street lighting would get much public support and should not be hard to achieve. Information packs for the public too.
Mayor of Waterford, Cllr. John O Leary, welcomed the report and thanked all the participants including the public as the various partners embark on delivering a safer Waterford by implementing the community led plan for Waterford. He complimented the Independent Chair, Sean Aylward, who in turn made a series of points.
“The freedom to go about our lives in safety is one of the highest human aspirations.” Mr Aylward quoted Latin phrase “Salus populi suprema lex esto” translating to “Public safety is the supreme law.”
The 30 members of the partnership were thanked for developing this plan in the past two years as part of a 5-year community safety plan for Waterford city and county.
Mr Aylward further acknowledged Ms. Claire Loughnane from Waterford Council, Eddie Mulligan and SETU post graduate student Barbara Enticknap.
The chairman stated “Incremental changes can enhance our sense of safety and belonging where we want to be. Our plan is based on taking small consistent positive steps to make Waterford safer.
They also include building up the social capital in our neighbourhoods that need significant investment.
We primarily focus of course on increasing the effectiveness of the agencies, which have a special responsibility to deliver services in our community.
This can range from policing and social services to education and training, sports and recreation facilities, housing provision and public lighting”. The latter can be done and bring public “buy in “ from people and organisations.
The people of Waterford can take a holistic approach to community safety and hold to account the state agencies involved. This is a strong living document that will benefit us in the years ahead.”
In summary, Sean said that he was “full of hope for the future of the amazing city and county of Waterford and for all of those, who have the privilege to live and work there.
We are already in a great place, but it can and will be even better.”