To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the initiatives taken or proposed by him to tackle rural crime.
As the Deputy will be aware, this Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime.
As part of the Garda approach special targeted patrols are carried out with the assistance of Garda National Support Services against criminals who are committing crime inter-regionally. This includes a focus on the use of motorways by criminal gangs so as to disrupt and arrest those involved.
The scale of Garda activity against burglary and property-related crime – under Operation Thor – has led to (as of 2 November 2018) over 168,636 targeted checkpoints and 243,277 crime prevention patrols nationwide. This has produced in the region of 8,837 arrests and 10,143 charges covering a range of offences, which, in addition to burglary, include handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences.
Gardaí continue to pursue a range of measures to support elderly and more vulnerable people in the community, working closely with Community Alert, Neighbourhood Watch and other community groups.
At the Ploughing Championships in September, I announced details of the 2018 Text Alert Rebate Scheme which will be available to over 1,000 local groups registered under the Garda Text Alert Scheme. My Department will be making in the region of €150,000 available to local communities who wish to apply for a rebate towards the costs associated with running their local Text Alert Scheme.
Other policing initiatives include Theft Stop, which was launched by the Gardaí and the Irish Farmers Association (IFA). Theft Stop is designed to deter criminals from taking and selling farm equipment by ensuring it is clearly marked with a unique ID and then registered on a nationwide database. The clearly visible serial number should act as a deterrent to criminals. A further impediment for criminals is that the details and serial numbers of stolen equipment can be viewed by would-be buyers on-line at www.theftstop.ie.
Other partnership initiatives with the IFA and Crimestoppers have included a reward fund to encourage reports to assist Gardaí in identifying those involved in livestock theft. Anyone with information about livestock theft may use the Crimestoppers confidential number 1800 25 00 25 to make a report if they so wish, or contact Gardaí directly.
Furthermore, new legislation has been put in place to target repeat burglary offenders and the Government is determined that there will be no let-up on the pressure which the Gardaí are bringing to bear on the organised gangs engaged in burglary, including the mobile gangs who have targeted rural communities in various parts of the country.
Underpinning the strong policing action now being taken against burglars and criminal gangs is the Government’s commitment to continue the ongoing accelerated Garda recruitment programme. I am pleased that Budget 2019 provides for the continuation of this increase in resources with an increase of over €100 million on the 2018 allocation.
Undoubtedly, rural communities will benefit from the significant injection of policing resources provided by the Government.