Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Questions (37)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


37. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the recent incidents of burglaries and thefts in Cork city over recent months; his plans to address same; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that recent Garda resources promised to the district will now not be provided; and if additional resources, both personnel and equipment will be provided to the Togher and Anglesea Street districts to address same. [26879/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Justice)

The Minister may be aware that, contrary to the national trend, there has been a significant spike in burglaries and thefts in the Cork city division. It is an ongoing trend which is having a big impact on people and their property and it requires an additional response. Unfortunately, that is not what it is getting. Rather, resources are being diverted away from it.

As the Deputy will be aware and appreciate, decisions in regard to the provision and allocation of Garda resources are a matter for the Garda Commissioner. I am informed by the Commissioner that Togher and Anglesea Street districts are part of the Cork city division, with a Garda strength totalling 703 as of 31 May 2019. In addition, there are 35 Garda Reserve members and 91 Garda staff attached to the division.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, of whom 69 were assigned to the Cork city division, with 26 and 15 assigned to Anglesea Street and Togher districts, respectively.

The crime statistics for the first quarter of 2019 were published last Monday by the CSO. To be of assistance to the Deputy, I will ask the CSO to make available up-to-date crime statistics for the Cork region. However, I can inform the Deputy that the statistics on theft and burglary offences are more encouraging, with a welcome fall in rates of 2.6% and 10.3%, respectively.

As the Deputy will be aware, last year the number of gardaí reached more than 14,000 for the first time since 2011. The Government has further increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion this year and the Commissioner plans to recruit a total of 600 trainee gardaí and 600 Garda staff this year. As we reach the end of the first half of 2019, I understand this is on target to be achieved. This will facilitate the redeployment of a further 500 fully-trained gardaí from administrative duties to front-line policing, which is the principal role and function of a member of An Garda Síochána. Ongoing recruitment is providing the resources needed to deliver a visible and effective policing service to communities in the Cork city region.

The Minister instanced national statistics and said that I could look up the Cork statistics. I have looked them up. For the first 165 days of this year, there have been 210 burglaries, not to mind attempted burglaries or thefts from cars. That amounts to one per day. The Minister has instanced the number of gardaí who have passed out. Cork got 69 of these, which is 2.4%. The population covered by the Cork city division must be approximately 8% to 12% of the national population but 2.4% is the figure Cork has got in recent years. That clearly does not match up to what is going on. This area has been neglected in recent years in terms of Garda resources. This issue has been going on for a long time. Places including Carrigaline, Ballincollig, Lehenaghmore, Glanmire and Carrigtwohill have been hit hard by this. The livelihoods of people are being threatened and people are having valuable property stolen. People are having their own sense of security in their homes undermined by this. Yet, the response is only 2.4% of the gardaí who have passed out in recent years.

I wish to assure the House, and the Deputy in particular, that the ongoing recruitment campaign is providing the resources needed to deliver a visible available Garda service in Cork city. The local Garda management in the Cork region keep all new and emerging crime trends under constant review.

I refer the Deputy to the impact of Operation Thor. Since November 2015 I am informed there have been in excess of 200,000 targeted checkpoints and over 350,000 crime prevention patrols throughout the country. Theft offences are down, as are burglary offences, with almost 3,752 fewer incidents of theft and burglary offences for the year ending March 2019. We should continue to assess the impact of Operation Thor, which is assisting communities throughout the country including those in the Cork area.

If it is on the decrease nationally, then obviously that is welcome, but it is not in Cork - that is a fact. It is up 10% with one burglary every day and more besides.

The Minister may or may not be aware of it, but the Tánaiste came out with a statement some weeks ago and said that the southern divisions would get 50 extra gardaí. It turns out not only are we not getting the extra allocation but we are not getting the ten that were promised either. They have now been diverted elsewhere. We have got 2.4% of the gardaí who have come out of Templemore in recent years. Cork is being neglected. There is no question about that. Given the size and growth of the population it is simply not good enough. The Garda locally does not have the resources to properly patrol its areas or tackle emerging crimes. That is simply a fact.

In Britain there are often issues following thefts and burglaries in cases where valuable property is stolen. Most of the time the property cannot be returned. Has the Minister examined the national mobile property register in Britain to see if a similar facility can be put in place here? That would enable people to be reunited with their property.

I would be happy to share the tabular information that I have in respect of Cork city's Anglesea Street and Togher districts. I have data in respect of resources not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of vehicles and other equipment. I wish to assure the Deputy that the Garda Commissioner keeps the situation under review on a constant basis in Cork. Indeed, according to the Garda, Togher and Anglesea Street districts have benefitted from assignments since the Garda College reopened in September 2014. The ongoing recruitment of An Garda Síochána will continue to provide additional policing hours in Cork city and throughout the country.