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Overtime plan to help tackle rural crime


One of two teenage brothers caught up in a farm accident has died.

One of two teenage brothers caught up in a farm accident has died.

One of two teenage brothers caught up in a farm accident has died.

The Government is to try alleviate the growing disquiet over rural crime with a series of "special burglary initiatives" in the Budget.

Garda management will be told to allocate in excess of €100m for overtime so that officers from larger stations can spend more time patrolling remote areas.

There will also be more investment in high-speed cars, along with assurances that no more rural garda stations face closure.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will not reopen any of the almost 140 stations that shut in recent years.

However, the Irish Independent understands that she will announce a package of measures specifically aimed at tackling roaming gangs who have been terrorising parts of the country.

"It is a big issue now. There will be funding in the Budget to help tackle burglary gangs. This isn't about buildings. We need mobile police to deal with mobile gangs," said a source.

It is understood that garda overtime - which fell from €115m in 2008 to less than €50m in recent years - will be a key plank of the plan.

Ms Fitzgerald has already confirmed that at least 500 new gardaí will be recruited next year.

And €1m worth of new high-speed cars will be distributed to garda stations around the country in December.

There will be money in next month's Budget to improve the garda IT system and for renovations at stations that were allowed fall into disrepair during the recession.

The rise in burglaries is now causing serious concern within Fine Gael, particularly from rural backbench TDs.

It is set to become an election issue. TDs feel that there needs to a visible garda presence in rural areas in order to interrupt the gangs.

Sources say that Ms Fitzgerald hopes that a combination of the recently published Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 and a Budget Day package will reassure voters that Fine Gael is tough on crime.

"From the time of the economic crash there was no investment in the gardaí until last year. We're getting a handle on it," a senior Government source insisted.

Garda figures indicate that 75pc of all home break-ins are carried out by 25pc of burglars.

The new burglary laws are designed to clamp down on prolific offenders.

They will see District Court judges apply mandatory consecutive sentences for multiple offences committed within a 12-month window.

Judges will also be allowed to refuse bail to offenders who have a previous conviction for burglary coupled with two or more pending charges.

"It's not that they aren't catching these guys. They are but the evidence is that they were going to court and six burglary offences were being dealt with as one," a source said.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) told the Irish Independent last night that the best way to tackle the problem is more gardaí.

"In the last five years we lost 2,500 gardaí. That's 5.3 million policing hours per annum. The GRA really would implore the Government to invest in garda numbers," a spokesperson said.

"Back in 2007 there was cross-party agreement on an aspiration of having 16,000 gardaí.

"We are 4,000 short of where we should have been in 2007. In the meantime crime has increased across a range of sectors including rural areas."

Irish Independent