As the Deputy will be aware, An Garda Síochána has been allocated an unprecedented budget of €1.952 billion for 2021. The significant level of funding provided over recent years is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. As a result, there are now some 14,600 Garda members and over 3,000 Garda staff nationwide. Budget 2021 will allow for the recruitment of up to 620 new Gardaí and an extra 500 Garda staff.
Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the general management and administration of Garda business, including decisions on operational deployment of members and resources. As Minister, I have no role in these independent functions.
However, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Winter Phase of Operation Thor commenced on 1st October 2020 and will run until the end of March 2021. Operation Thor is designed to specifically tackle the anticipated increase in the number of burglaries and associated criminal activity that usually occur in winter months by undertaking targeted enforcement and preventative activity. This initiative has successfully reduced the rate of winter burglaries, leading to a significant decline of 40% in property related crime since its introduction in 2015.
With regard to organised crime, sustained action by An Garda Síochána has continued unabated throughout the pandemic, bringing significant convictions and ongoing seizures of drugs, firearms and ammunition. In the first six months of 2020, Garda operations to counter organised crime resulted in the seizure of €13.6m in illicit drugs, 13 firearms and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
This work has continued throughout the autumn and winter months including the seizure of approximately €7 million of cannabis on 23rd October. The Deputy may also be interested to note an operation on 3rd November whereby the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) seized cannabis with an estimated street value of €1 million in the Kildare area.
Finally, I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the bureau seized over €7.5 million in cash from the start of the year up until the 31st October.