• Group Name: Dunlavin Community Text Alert, Co. Wicklow
  • Garda District: Baltinglass
  • Gardai directly issuing alerts on behalf of the group: Yes
  • Contact Name: Mr Kay Grattan
  • Service Provider: CommunityAlerts.ie
  • No. of Subscribers: 318

Introduction:

Dunlavin Community Text Alert set up with CommunityAlerts.ie during March 2014 with 248 subscribers. Since then a further 80 subscribers have come on board which is testament to the success of the service to date. They currently have 318 subscribers receiving alerts from Gardai for suspicious incidents and crime prevention notices in the Baltinglass Garda District. The success of any Text Alert system in Ireland is dependent on the role played by An Garda Siochana and the speed that they issue alerts. Dunlavin are extremely lucky to be located in the Baltinglass Garda District which is extremely supportive of Text Alert initiatives of all sizes in the district.

Case Study: Dunlavin, by Kay Grattan (Secretary):

In an age when people are becoming increasingly aware of personal safety and security local people began to express sentiments such as "the village next door has some kind of a community alert", "I was down the country last week and saw signs for text alert - I wonder what that is?" Following conversations such as this a group of like minded people came together to investigate the possibility of having a system like this for our community.

Our first port of call was to our local Gardaí who quickly got us in contact with the Community Guard for our area. From the outset we received a very positive response from our local Gardaí and they were very supportive to us at every turn. They gave us advice on the various systems, feedback on how other schemes became established etc.

Following a very informative conversation with the Community Guard outlining the benefits of using a text alert system for both the service users and the Gardai we decided to advertise a public meeting inviting people to come along and investigate establishing a text alert system for our community.

There was a very good turnout for this meeting and all in attendance listened to a presentation by a local Garda representative. All present on the night were in strong agreement that Text Alert was what they wanted for their village/community. A committee was established there and then and we began our plans. Of course we were full of enthusiasm and thought we would have the system up and running in 8-10 weeks but reality and the Christmas break soon kicked in and our plans were slightly delayed.

One of our first tasks was to register with Muintir na Tire and then secure insurance which would cover our members to call to houses delivering information about the system. We were conscious of home security and asking people to answer their door and felt it would be best to have a familiar face calling to the door. We felt the best strategy to achieve this was to divide the community into roads or areas and then have a committee member from that area call to those houses. In areas where we found we were lacking a representative we decided to seek volunteers from there, we found people very willing to help and we encountered no difficulty getting volunteers. Our committee representatives called to houses, delivering information leaflets and answering any questions people may have.

The reception received on the doorsteps was excellent and we had a very high sign up rate. People were delighted to hear the system was being set up in our area and were very supportive. We decided upon a registration fee of ‚€10 having consulted neighbouring communities for advice. After a few weeks of collecting the registration sheets we were enthused by the response we had received. When they were all collected we typed the information up and had a data sheet ready to go when we reached a decision about issuing text alerts.

This lead to our next decision - whether we would get our own phone and send texts or to use the CommunityAlerts.ie system. In making this decision one of the key issues for us was that our area has bad mobile phone reception at the best of times and felt this could cause significant issues. We also felt that sending from our own phone would mean we need volunteers to hold onto the phone and send out texts and so mean a slower delivery of messages. Another issue raised was professionalism and that the credibility of the texts may be undermined if using our own phone. With all this in mind we decided to go with CommunityAlerts.ie.

Having contacted CommunityAlerts.ie we found the whole process very easy and the sign up process was straight forward and very quick. We sent them the data sheet we had prepared and they had us up and running the next day! We then appointed two people in our group to do any new sign ups or if a change of details is needed for any member. Overall, our experience with CommunityAlerts.ie has been hugely positive, they are very easy to deal with and are only a phone call away for any queries we may have.

March 2014 marked a very significant development for our community when our Text Alert system became live. People see a great value and security in collective responsibility and also feel more comfortable reporting anything that may be unsettling or worrying to them. From the Gardai's perspective the system has certainly proved its' worth and the feedback from the Gardai­ has been that it is very helpful to them in covering the large area they serve and in receiving information quickly. In fact, in one case, following a text alert about a robbery five arrests were made in the following 24 hours. The Gardai also received information very quickly and were able to disturb and apprehend criminals in the process of a robbery. Without the text alert system this information would not have travelled as quickly and these arrests may not have been made.

We are now a further six months down the road with this project and our next task is to design, source and erect signs highlighting that the text alert system operates in the area. We are now set to embark on fundraising for these signs and hopefully to fund some of our texts. When we have this completed we see our role as being very minimal, Dunlavin text alert will require very little input, mainly just to top up our CommunityAlerts.ie account.

As we are still in our first year it is difficult to grasp what the running costs for a year will be, obviously we have had initial expenses this year which we will not have in coming years. At present we see the yearly registration fee as being sufficient, after we get the costs for a full year we may even be able to reduce this fee next year.

Overall this has been a very rewarding experience for the committee involved. We had the opportunity to effect change in our community in a very meaningful way. We would highly recommend that a community without text alert consider what they are lacking by not having this as part of their community's fabric.

Thanking you.
Dunlavin Text Alert Committee

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