Gardaí should increase patrols in rural areas and hold regular meetings in community centres to reassure communities in areas where garda stations have closed, a new report on community policing and rural crime has recommended.

The report by the Oireachtas Justice Committee also recommends that a dedicated community garda be assigned in each district to encourage engagement and act as a first point of contact.

It also says communities should install CCTV systems with State assistance and that more interagency co-operation is needed to combat cross border crime.

An Garda Síochána should also use social media more effectively to engage with isolated communities, the report says.

While agricultural crime and residential burglaries decreased last year, the fear of crime remains a real issue in rural areas and the real extent of rural crime remains unknown.

The report also found large gaps in services, such as the provision of primary health care outside regular business hours that are a barrier to effective community policing.

The Garda Commissioner said he recognises the critical importance of community policing in tackling crime and reducing the fear of crime.

Responding to the report on rural crime, Garda Headquarters said the most recent survey has shown that just 16% of people believe crime in their local area is a major problem, the lowest level since 2015 and that 80% are satisfied with their local Garda service.

Gardaí also say the report recognises that they are not solely responsible for policing issues and point to successful initiatives with the IFA and Muintir na Tire such as TextAlert.

They also say they have significantly expanded their social media presence over the last few years and that expansion will continue.