To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if the Dublin northern metropolitan region can expect an increase in its detective complement in 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien
As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that in regard to the deployment of Garda personnel, a distribution model is used which takes into account all relevant factors including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each individual Garda Division. It is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his/her Division.
The Dublin Region is served by members assigned to the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) which consists of 6 Garda Division including the DMR North and North Central Divisions. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the number of Gardaí assigned to the DMR on the 31 October 2016, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 3,473 of which 214 were Detectives. The number of Gardaí assigned to the DMR North and North Central Divisions on the 31 October 2016, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 1,274 of which 67 were Detectives. When appropriate, the work of the Garda Divisions within the DMR is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI), the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (formerly the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation) and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
At the request of the Garda Commissioner earlier this year, the Government moved decisively to strengthen Garda resources to deal with gang-related crime in the Dublin area. In particular funding was approved for the establishment of a dedicated Armed Support Unit for the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) in order to enhance armed support capability in Dublin and to free up the resources of the ERU. Following a selection and training process, the Armed Support Unit for the DMR is now fully operational and providing armed cover on a 24 hour basis.
I am further informed that Operation Hybrid has been established to coordinate the response to violent crime in Dublin and address public concerns about community safety. As of 20 October 2016, there have been 38 arrests and 5 charges brought in connection with the recent shootings. In addition, 23 firearms have been seized and over 9,000 lines of enquiry conducted. In excess of 14,350 high visibility checkpoints have been implemented with significant support from Armed Support Units and a significant amount of CCTV footage, mobile phone traffic, and forensic evidence is also being examined. I understand Operation Hybrid is reviewed on a weekly basis to maintain optimal impact.
Underpinning all of these measures is the Government’s commitment to increasing the overall Garda workforce to 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. This process will involve the recruitment of some 3,200 new Garda members on a phased basis over the next four years, to ensure that the service is renewed and has the capacity to provide visible, responsive and effective policing to every community throughout the country.
This is an ambitious target and will require a continuous pipeline of suitable candidates. I am pleased to say that the recruitment campaign launched by the
Public Appointments Service on behalf of the Commissioner last September, the second campaign this year, again received a strong response.
I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College, 679 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, including 319 to DMR Divisions. I have no doubt that these new resources now coming on stream will benefit the Detective strength across all Garda regions.
This investment in personnel is complemented by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána. The Deputy will be aware of the significant resources that have been made available to An Garda Síochána under the Government's Capital Plan 2016 - 2021. In particular, some €205 million in additional funding for Garda ICT and €46 million for new Garda vehicles has been allocated over the lifetime of the plan. This investment will facilitate the provision of more effective policing services countrywide including in the DMR.
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the measures that will be taken to address the low burglary detection rate in the Dublin northern metropolitan region; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien
I understand that the Deputy is referring to detection rates highlighted in the 'Garda Recorded Crime Statistics 2010-2014', which was published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) last week. The first thing that needs to be said is that this publication provides an analysis of data up to the end of 2014 only, and it would be entirely incorrect to suggest that it represents an assessment of the current situation in relation to burglary or any other crime category.
In relation to the general issue of detection rates, it must be recognised that detection rates do vary according to the nature of the crime and that this is in line with international experience. Detection rates are often found to be lower for certain offences, such as burglaries and some other property crimes, as these generally only come to light after the event and the offender has left the scene. These offences are inherently more difficult to investigate than others such as possession of drugs, for example, where the offender is observed while committing the offence. While our statistical system is not directly comparable with that of other countries, in the UK, for example, similar difficulties exist in detecting burglaries. This is illustrated by Home Office figures which show that over 80% of burglary investigations in 2014/2015 were concluded without a suspect being identified.
I do of course share the Deputy’s concern that we do everything we can to protect communities from burglary and other crimes against householders. Long before the publication of the recent CSO analysis, I initiated a broad ranging review of our response to burglary crime.
Operation Thor launched in November 2015 has led to a sharp decline in the rate of burglary crime. Indeed, the most current CSO crime figures, which are for the second quarter of 2016, indicate that in the first six months of this year there were 36% less burglaries than in the first six months of 2015, underlining the impact of Operation Thor. It is also worth noting that the CSO Quarter 2 figures for the D.M.R. Northern Garda Division show a reduction in Burglary of 36%. We have also seen the enactment of specific legislation targeting prolific burglars in the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015. These provisions are now available to Gardaí in relation to prosecutions arising from the concentrated drive against crime which is being implemented under Operation Thor, which is supported by very significant investments in Garda resources. The reduction in burglaries as a result of Operation Thor will not of course be indicated in the detection rate statistics when they become available for the relevant period but the prevention of crime is always preferable to crimes having been committed which must then be detected.
If I might illustrate the scale of Garda activity against burglary and property crime – under Operation Thor we have seen 30,000 crime prevention patrols and in the order of 38,500 targeted checkpoints nationwide. There have also been in the region of 2,500 arrests and 2,900 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, have included handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences.
The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act was commenced a year ago and introduced the DNA database, which provides Gardaí with investigative links (’hits’) between people and unsolved crimes; in particular burglaries. It is anticipated that this should significantly assist in improving detection rates for burglary over the coming years. So far, approximately 532 investigative links between people and unsolved crimes have already been uncovered, including 359 burglary cases. In addition, the database links crime scene samples to each other and so far, 95 crime scene samples have been linked to other crime scene samples, demonstrating a link between two crimes or clusters of crimes committed by the same person in a particular area or locality.
I understand that the CSO will publish the next Quarterly Recorded Crime Statistics release before the end of this month. I can assure the Deputy that I will be monitoring crime trends very carefully and will remain in close contact with the Garda Commissioner to ensure that we continue to provide An Garda Síochána with the necessary legislative and financial supports needed to tackle crime and protect people in their own homes.
And finally, underpinning the Government’s approach is our commitment to increase Garda numbers to 15,000 and we are pressing ahead with our plans for accelerated Garda recruitment so that we can provide more visible front line policing and bring greater reassurance to people in their local communities.