I thank the Minister for taking this topical issue on the need for additional Garda resources for County Meath. To cut to the chase, I very much appreciate that the Minister is dealing with the macro issue of putting more gardaí into the system and ensuring the security of our country is strengthened even further. One of the key tenets of the confidence and supply agreement was to ensure an increase in Garda numbers to 15,000. It was good to see in the budget that resources allowing for an additional 800 gardaí have been provided.
When it comes to crime, I know that no matter what Deputy stands in front of the Minister, he will share the sentiments expressed, regardless of the county of origin of that Deputy. There is a particular case to be made for Meath, however. It needs special attention, both from the management of the force itself and the political body here in Dáil Éireann. Owing to the trend of commuting to Dublin from surrounding counties, the population explosion in Meath has been quite pronounced. My topical issue centres on how we are responding to extreme pressures in one area when additional resources become available and on how we spread them accordingly. With the population explosion in Meath comes pressure on housing, infrastructure, health services and jobs. Crime, however, has really spiked in the county over the past year in both urban and rural settings. It needs to be tackled before it takes root.
These issues were raised by me in the Dáil previously and raised directly by me with the then Commissioner, Ms O'Sullivan, at a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts before the summer break. I outlined to the former Commissioner some horrendously violent attacks on a business owner in Navan. Footage was captured on a mobile telephone and subsequently replayed on social media. It was also captured by all the national newspapers. News cycles move on, of course. After the summer recess, at the end of September, I attended one of our regular policing meetings with the chief superintendent in Meath. Statistics showed that crime levels had greatly increased in Meath over the past year. Property theft was up by a whopping 59%. Thefts in shops were up by 44%, and criminal damage was up 31%. Property crime was up by 39%, with 1,359 incidents reported up to September. The rate of assault also increased.
The chief superintendent, Mr. Fergus Healy, who came into the job only last year, has been exceptional and really excellent in analysing the threats from gangs coming in from Dublin on the motorway system, attacking areas such as Enfield, Navan, Ashbourne, and Oldcastle. The chief superintendent needs help, however, and he has said that. Just last week, ten additional gardaí were deployed in Meath. They were pictured in this morning's Meath Chronicle with the chief superintendent. Some 12 were deployed earlier in the year but the 22 gardaí that came in allow us only to stand still. There are 313 gardaí in the county, which figure places us below the national per capita average. The chief superintendent attended a public meeting on policing this night last week in Trim. Quite candidly and openly, he said we need additional resources above and beyond this allocation to have a fair chance of tackling the threat. He said we have to fight for our resources in Meath and that one cannot go to the table unless one has facts and figures. He said that, certainly in Meath, the figures stand out and tell their own story. The chief superintendent, Mr. Fergus Healy, a professional, is making the case for our county. Since he made that statement at a public meeting this night last week, it is naturally incumbent on me to fight his corner and that of the people of Meath in the Dáil this week. I ask the Minister to ensure Meath can get the manpower required and the tools the gardaí need to do their job. He should act not only on my words this evening but also on those of the chief superintendent, who is also crying out for help.