Tuesday 24 October 2017

Garda plan to hit rural crime will come after Budget

Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A new Garda operation targeting rural crime gangs is to be announced days after the Budget.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is finalising details of the plan, which she hopes will quell the disquiet over a spate of high-profile burglaries in rural areas.

It had been expected that a package of measures would be revealed as part of the Budget Day allocation to the Department of Justice.

However, the Irish Independent now understands that a separate announcement will now be made within a week of the Budget.

"It's a work in progress at the moment. There are a number of factors that go together, but it's fair to say that this is a very specific operation," said a source.

A key plank of the plan will see more resources freed up for gardaí working in rural areas to get them "visible and on the beat".

However, a Labour senator hit out at the minister last night, claiming "diddly squat is being done to curtail these criminals' freedom of movement".

Senator Lorraine Higgins said "fear pervades" in most rural towns and called for the DPP to have criminals who use getaway cars during the course of a theft to be banned from driving.

"This has not happened to any of the ringleaders jailed recently for a spate of burglaries, robberies and assaults on people in this country, which is an outrage," she said.

"Unless we introduce hardline deterrents, we will lose the battle with crime in rural Ireland."

Sources say Ms Fitzgerald is extremely concerned about the number of attacks on elderly people in their homes and the theft of machinery from farms.

She believes that a large part of the problem has been addressed in the recent Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill, which gives judges greater powers to refuse bail for repeat offenders.

Some 75pc of burglaries are committed by 25pc of burglars.

However, the next step is make sure people feel safe in their homes.

"This new operation has been in the pipeline since the Criminal Justice Burglary Bill. We are working on a tough response to the fears out there in relation to rural crime," said a source.

The Government has repeatedly defended its response, with Enda Kenny telling the Dáil that they have allocated €27m for new Garda vehicles and brought in 500 new recruits.

He also said that an extra 61,000 community hours have been made available for policing.

Irish Independent

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