Since I commenced the publication of crime statistics on a quarterly basis at the beginning of 2003, I have consistently emphasised that care must be taken in interpreting the statistics, especially when considering short-term fluctuations and extrapolating trends over short periods. The level of headline crime in 2005 is lower than that for 2003 by 1.6% and is lower than that for 2002 by 4.4%. Furthermore in 1995, with a population of almost 3.6 million people, there were 29 crimes per 1,000 of the population, while in 2005, with a population of over 4.1 million, there were 24.6 crimes per 1,000 of the population.
Nevertheless, while there have been significant reductions in 2005 in the incidence of manslaughter — down 50% — aggravated sexual assault — down 43% — robbery of cash and goods in transit — down 27% — robbery from the person — down 23% — and theft from the person — down 18% — the overall increase and the increases in particular categories are disappointing.
I welcome the significant decrease of 27% in the number of incidents of robbery of cash and goods in transit — down from 62 in 2004 to 45 in 2005 — and that this trend improved in the fourth quarter with a decrease of 47%. Operation Delivery, an initiative undertaken by the Garda Síochána to counteract the increase in cash in transit robberies which emerged in 2004, has contributed significantly to this welcome decrease. Furthermore, the new code of practice now being operated by the major institutions and companies involved in the cash in transit industry, which has raised the standards in operation and which I pushed for, has made a significant contribution to this decrease. These developments have been underpinned by the establishment of the Private Security Authority.
I also welcome the increase in the number of detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply — up 20% — and possession of firearms — up 16% — which are offences which in the main become known as a result of police detection work. This trend continued in the fourth quarter and, in the case of possession of firearms, improved, with an increase of 24%.
Operation Anvil, which the Commissioner introduced last May and for which I obtained substantial additional resources made a significant contribution to this level of detection. Operation Anvil will continue as long as it is deemed necessary in operational and policing terms. At my request, the Commissioner has extended Operation Anvil to Garda divisions outside Dublin.
Our legislative package for tackling crime especially serious and organised crime is already widely viewed as being one of the toughest in Europe. However, there are legislative proposals to enhance our legal framework in this area. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas, provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will enhance the powers of gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences. It contains an essential updating of our law to ensure that criminal offences can be investigated and prosecuted in a way which is efficient and fair and which meets the needs of modern society.
The Garda Síochána this year has the highest level of resources in its history at €1,290 million, which is an increase of €146 million or 13% on 2005. The provision for Garda overtime in 2006 is €83.5 million, an increase of €23 million on the allocation for 2005. This increase will greatly assist the planned deployment of a visible policing service in a flexible, effective and targeted response to criminal activity and to crime prevention. The €83.5 million in overtime will yield 2.725 million extra hours of policing by uniformed and by special units throughout the State.
I take great satisfaction in the Government's decision of October 2004 to approve the recruitment of 2,000 additional gardaí to increase the strength of the force to 14,000. As a result there will be a combined organisational strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training of 14,000 in 2006. One thing I have already promised is that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.
The Garda Síochána policing plan for 2006, recently published by the Commissioner, includes a targeted reduction in the incidence of crime by 2% and an increase in detection rates by 2%. It also reflects the Government's priorities in the fight against crime and the actions which it wishes to be taken, for which significant additional resources have been provided.
While it is the case that a number of the increases in headline crime statistics reflect increased enforcement activity on the part of the Garda Síochána, the overall picture indicates that there is no room for complacency and validates the Government's decision to continue to devote unprecedented resources to the fight against crime. I can assure the Deputy that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling crime under continuing review.