Fitzgerald says tide is now turning against the criminals
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has admitted that a lack of investment in garda resources in recent years has had a major impact on crime levels in Ireland, but said the tide is now finally turning on career criminals.
She revealed that plans for electronic tagging have been revived and that under new proposals prosecutors and gardaí will be able to request the GPS monitoring. Gardaí will also be granted new powers of arrest to tackle suspects who are in breach of bail conditions.
As reported in the Irish Independent yesterday, the Government has now committed to funding more mobile armed garda units, tougher bail rules and electronic tagging as part of a €5m plan to blitz prolific burglary gangs.
Speaking at the launch of the new major crime crackdown at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ms Fitzgerald said she was "confident" in the new scheme, dubbed 'Operation Thor'.
The minister said it would help to "disrupt the activities of burglars, organised crime gangs and prolific offenders" and "improve safety for all communities".
The minister said that absolutely "the recession and the economic crisis had a massive effect on the investment in the gardai".
Now detectives are to benefit from the cash injection, with officers being given more than a dozen high-powered Audi Q7s and BMW X range SUVs.
Alongside the operational strategies, gardaí are also working to create improved community-based schemes, such as neighbourhood watch and local text-alert programmes.
The new DNA database, which is expected to be fully operational early in the new year, is likely to give a major boost to investigations into crimes such as burglaries.
Gardaí will also place the spotlight on the role played by the receivers of stolen goods, particularly those with links in the UK and mainland Europe.
Six major crime gangs and 200 repeat burglars have been identified ahead of the crackdown. It is estimated that 75pc of burglaries are committed by the same 25pc of offenders.
She pointed out that some 1,150 gardaí are to be recruited, with more than €34m spent on new garda vehicles since 2012.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan said the crackdown coincided with longer winter nights. She said it was time to tackle "the fear of crime" that had been instilled in communities, especially in rural areas.
"We are going to have a relentless focus on identifying, targeting, and disrupting criminals and bringing them to justice. We not only target offenders, but also their assets," she added.
Commissioner O'Sullivan said that the border areas pose an extra challenge to gardai noting that they "had their own unique difficulties."
However she said that the area, which has been blighted by a number of cross-border smuggling gangs, would receive extra resources while working with the PSNI.