341. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she is satisfied with the adequacy of the facilities available to An Garda Síochána to tackle modern crime, with particular reference to vehicles, electronic equipment and any other facilities that are required by police forces internationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42908/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of available Garda resources. This includes personnel, Garda vehicles and the various technologies utilised to support front-line Gardaí and intelligence-led operations against organised crime. This process takes account of annual policing priorities determined by me as Minister for Justice in consultation with the Garda Commissioner as provided for under section 20 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are continually looking to ensure that the latest information, communications and forensic technologies are sourced and deployed to achieve their strategic objectives as set out in the context of their annual policing plans, as provided for in section 22 of the 2005 Act. This policy is designed to ensure that the Garda Síochána will be properly resourced to meet the evolving needs of a modern effective police force and take advantage of proven up to date technological developments in crime detection and prevention as they occur.
More generally, it is also the case that the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, in its reports on An Garda Síochána, benchmarks the performance of the An Garda Síochána with best international policing practice.
In terms of existing technology, the Deputy will be aware that a considerable amount of new Garda ICT solutions has been delivered over the past number of years. These include the deployment of a secure national digital radio system (NDRS), the deployment and support of Garda and Community CCTV systems, an automated number plate recognition (ANPR) system, and the addition of many new functions to the PULSE system, which itself is further supported by a dedicated Garda data entry service in Castlebar. The substantial additional investment of €205 million in new technology and systems for An Garda Síochána provided under the Capital Plan 2016-2021 will facilitate progress on further important reforms arising from the Garda Inspectorate's report on Crime Investigation. Examples of the new systems to be developed through this investment include:
- new computer-aided dispatch to ensure responsive and coordinated deployment of Gardaí in the community;
- mobile technology to give the Gardaí secure mobile access to critical information when and where they need it;
- investigations management systems to ensure enhanced management of crime investigations; and
- upgrading the ANPR to enhance policing of road safety and compliance.
The 2016 Budget allocation of €1.5 billion for An Garda Síochána includes over €67 million in additional funding which will allow the recruitment of 600 new Gardaí next year on top of the 550 Gardaí recruited since this Government reopened the Garda College in September 2014. It will also provide additional funding for Garda surveillance, special operations and targeted, intelligence-led policing. This additional recruitment and budget allocation builds on the current high level of investment in Garda vehicles. We have invested over €34 million in new Garda vehicles since 2012 with over 640 new vehicles coming on stream in 2015, ranging from more Garda patrol cars to high-powered vehicles for armed units. The Government's Capital Plan 2016-2021 provides for a further €46 million of investment in vehicles, as well as investment in airborne surveillance. Taken together, this step-change in investment in policing will ensure that the Gardaí can be mobile, visible and responsive, on the roads and in the community.
In the area of forensics, the Garda authorities currently employ state-of-the-art automated fingerprint and ballistics identification systems which I am informed are at least on a par with those used by police forces in other EU jurisdictions. The Deputy will also be aware of the recent launch of the national DNA database which has capacity to revolutionise the investigation of crime in Ireland.
These and other new technological solutions, as well as the investment in resources, will ensure that An Garda Síochána has the capacity to provide effective policing services in respond to the evolving challenges of modern day criminal activity.