I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 315 together.
First, the Deputy will be aware that the investigation of criminal offences and the detailed allocation of Garda resources are operational matters for the Garda Commissioner, with whom I liaise on a regular basis. Second, I have already pointed out in this House that the most recent figures made available to me indicate that the overall crime rate is not escalating. Provisional Garda figures for the nine-month period to the end of September 2003 show a 3% decline over the same nine-month period in 2002.
In addition, the commissioner has informed me that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána as of 19 November 2003 was 11,875. A further 164 probationer gardaí are due to be attested to the force on 27 November 2003 and allocated to their respective stations on 28 November 2003. Garda recruitment and training has been prioritised to bring the force up to its maximum authorised strength of 12,200 as soon as possible. Six hundred and ninety Garda trainees have been taken into the Garda college during this year. A new Garda recruitment competition is under way, and the commissioner has projected, based on the anticipated rate of retirement, that the maximum authorised force strength of 12,200 will be achieved during 2004. Those extra gardaí will be assigned to the areas of greatest need.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Síochána Bill 2003, which will be published within weeks, contains several measures on the organisation, management, performance and accountability of the Garda Síochána aimed at improving the efficient and effective use of Garda resources. The publication of the preliminary draft scheme allowed all directly interested, and the public at large, the opportunity to take part in the consultative process that is informing the drafting process of the Bill.
Responsibility for crime prevention and enforcement cannot rest solely on the gardaí and the wider criminal justice system. Local authorities also have a role to play. The Garda Síochána Bill therefore proposes a formalised consultation process in the form of local policing committees which will formulate and oversee the implementation of measures of co-operation between the local authority and the Garda aimed at reducing crime and disorder and combating the misuse of alcohol and drugs.
I have recently made an additional €2 million available to the Garda Síochána to cover the period up to the end of this year which will provide over 55,000 additional overtime hours to tackle crime and will also cover all additional travel and subsistence requirements. The bulk of those additional resources will be targeted at the southern and Dublin metropolitan regions and at support units, including the emergency response unit, where appropriate.