New crackdown by gardaí to tackle 200 of worst burglars
Two hundred of the most prolific offenders in the State will be targeted by gardaí in a new nationwide crackdown on crime.
The operation, which will be officially launched today, will focus in particular on high-volume crimes like burglaries and is aimed at putting the thugs behind bars.
Substantial additional resources are to be deployed in beefing up the garda units responsible for tracking down and capturing the key culprits.
These will be funded initially by a special overtime allocation to the force until sufficient new garda recruits are fully trained and capable of making an impact on the streets.
The anti-crime initiative will build on the successes of anti-burglary Operation Fiacla and its six regional offshoots.
The top 200 targets will be divided into three groups with the top tier, which operates across garda regions and has international connections, consisting of half-a-dozen gangs, based mainly in Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Sligo.
These are the mobile gangs who use high-powered cars on the national road networks to carry out nightly sprees of burglaries and then return to their urban bases.
The second tier of criminals operate within a garda division, while the third involve repeat offenders in a district.
Garda deployment will include the regional support units and traffic corps, backed up by local personnel made available for specific operations.
Details will be announced today by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
The operation will be co-ordinated nationally to speed up the flow of information. Reports of rural crimes will be flashed back immediately to officers in urban centres where the travelling gangs are based.
"This will allow us time to intercept the gangs before they can return home after a night of robberies or burglaries in several counties", a senior garda officer said.
"Unlike the local robbers, these gangs will carry out six to 10 crimes during a single night, concentrating specifically on items such as cash and jewellery and then head for home along the motorways.
"They set out in the late afternoon and travel back to their base in the early morning. With more co-ordinated planning and information, we intend to be ready for them as they return and catch them with the loot."
Case-management officers will be assigned to the main targets, to be responsible for compiling a list of crimes committed in different areas - and putting these together in a prosecution file for the courts.
Recruitment will also be launched to build up a team of garda crime analysts to 30 personnel initially. This section will then be extended to cover business-related crime.
Apart from the upgrading of the garda fleet, the operation will also involve surveillance and high-visibility patrols to act as a deterrent and provide reassurance to the public.
"We plan to take back the perceived control of the motorways from the travelling gangs by erecting a series of checkpoints regularly on their favoured routes and access and exit roads, as well as stepping up patrols in identified crime blackspots", one officer said.
Prison space is available as the numbers in custody mean that it is currently operating at 90pc of capacity.