Gardaí promised the resources to set up special patrols to target scourge of travelling crime gangs
GARDAÍ are being given special funding for the setting up of dedicated patrols, to target the main travelling gangs behind the surge in rural crime.
The key players in the gangs, who are striking fear into the hearts of isolated communities with their nightly forays from their urban bases, have been identified as a result of garda intelligence and analysis.
Now the force is being handed the resources they require to crack down on the culprits and bring them to justice.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said last night that a special budget was being ring-fenced to cover the cost of nationwide operations against the burglars over the next two years.
The dedicated units will be backed up by more visible policing as recruits are trained at the Garda College in Templemore and then released onto the streets.
The minister also disclosed that she believes a 14,000-strong garda force was attainable in the next few years.
Six hundred recruits will be taken into Templemore in 2016, on top of the 550 that have already been recruited since September 2014.
She said those numbers would increase the overall strength to more than 13,000, and that could be built upon to boost the force back up to its pre-recession size of 14,000.
Mrs Fitzgerald confirmed a total allocation of €1.5 billion for the garda force next year, including over €67m in additional funding.
"The ongoing recruitment of new gardaí is crucial for the force and for the safety of communities throughout Ireland. We are delivering on our promise to ensure that Templemore will not close again and will be advertising for new candidates again in November," she added.
She said the extra money for garda surveillance, special operations and targeted, intelligence-led policing would ensure that the officers had the necessary tools and manpower to tackle "the scourge of highly mobile criminal gangs".
Apart from the purchase of specialist vehicles for the garda units, and an upgrade of air surveillance, she also promised the roll-out of an automated number plate recognition system shortly.
There will be investment in investigation management systems and an extension of mobile technology to allow gardaí immediate access to expanded information on criminal activities on the Pulse computer system.
An additional €205m is being spent on developing garda technology and IT systems as part of a major funding programme over six years.
Mrs Fitzgerald insisted that the DNA database, which has been heralded as a potentially major weapon in the garda armoury and has been promised for the past 25 years, is finally about to come on stream - and stated an additional €1.3m is being allocated to recruit extra staff for the forensic science laboratory.
This would strengthen the laboratory's capacity to meet the realities and demands of 21st century criminal investigations, she added.
Spending on the Irish Prison Service will increase by €6.4m to €332m and will allow critical vacancies to be filled, while €2.7m is available for the independent policing authority to ensure it can "hit the ground running" next year.
The minister stressed that victims would be placed at the heart of the criminal justice system and the budget in that sector was being increased by 21pc to almost €1.5m.