THE Garda Commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, has officialy launched an armed regional support unit which will provide back-up to frontline gardaí in critical incidents.
The units, which will be based in Limerick and Cork, are second-tier firearms response teams and are made up of uniformed garda, who will arm themselves and change into tactical outfits in response to an emergency call.
Twenty gardai and detectives from the Limerick region have been in training for the past six months to form the new Regional Support Unit and they are now set to complement the services of the Limerick-based 12 members of the ERU.
These gardai have received special training in firearms and surveillance and will be operating in Limerick 24/7.
Superintendent John Kerin said the presence of the ERU will be reduced in the city but they will be called on when needed by the gardai.
"The Regional Support Unit will have a highly visible presence in the estates at key times daily, dressed in distinctive uniforms. People will definitely know they're there. They have been trained in virtually every type of weapon, both lethal and non lethal," said Supt Kerin.
While recognising that the number of firearms charges has decreased dramatically in the past year, Supt Kerin said there is still need for a strong garda presence to deter crime.
Cllr Kevin Kiely, chairman of the Joint Policing Committee, has welcomed the announcement and applauded the local gardai for successfully tackling criminal activities since Operation Platinum this May, which involved the search of some 120 properties in the city and the consequent seizure of €250,000, ammunition and firearms.
"These officers will have responsibility for investigating and tackling crime in Limerick and the Mid-West. Whereas the members of the ERU were depending on advice from detectives, these officers are all from Limerick city and know all the main criminals," said Cllr Kiely.
The Joint Policing Committee in Limerick are expected to be briefed on the operations of Regional Response Unit in Limerick at its next meeting in October.