50. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality how she proposes to deal with crime levels, particularly in rural areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42647/15]
Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: One of the most significant initiatives taken is finishing the moratorium on Garda recruitment. The Deputy will have seen the advertisement this week for 600 new gardaí who will be recruited early next year. We have already received expressions of interest from thousands of people. I am looking forward to the initiative going ahead. It is very important that the moratorium on recruitment to the Garda training college in Templemore has ended. The Taoiseach and the Government have committed to ongoing continuous recruitment.
In terms of the Government's strategy to tackle this issue, we are getting tougher on serious and repeat offenders. Investing in the capacity of An Garda Síochána to enforce the law effectively is critical. The Deputy saw the launch yesterday of the JARC, the joint agency response to crime. The Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill is before the House and provides tougher measures to target repeat burglary offenders. A further initiative has been taken by the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service and An Garda Síochána.
Significant new resources in manpower, vehicles and surveillance activities were announced on budget day and the capital plan for the period 2016 to 2021. As we now have a more stable economy and the public finances are in better shape, we can begin to invest again and have done so in the past two years. There is a budget of €1.1 billion for An Garda Síochána which was increased last year for the first time in several years. All of this enhances capacity.
Operation Thor is also critical. Its five strands include intensive community involvement by way of Muintir na Tíre text alerts and whole-of-community engagement in responding to the challenging issues communities face.