72. Deputy Helen McEntee asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the need for additional Garda Síochána resources in communities (details supplied) in County Meath; if she will request a report from the Garda Commissioner on plans to improve policing in the relevant communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42287/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of personnel, among the Garda Regions, Divisions, and Districts. Garda management keep this distribution under continuing review taking into account crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the best possible use is made of these resources.
I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that Kilcock is in the Kildare Garda Division and forms part of Leixlip Garda District and as of 31 October 2015, the latest dates for which figures are readily available there are 9 Gardai assigned to Kilcock Garda station. This station is open 3p.m. to 6p.m. Friday to Saturday and from 3p.m. to 5p.m. on Sundays subject to manpower availability with a Public Access Call Box (P.A.C.B.) to Leixlip, which is approximately 19Km away.
The number of Gardaí assigned to Ashbourne and Duleek on the 31 October 2015, was at 43 and 4 respectively. Duleek Garda station is opened subject to manpower availability with a Public Access Call Box (P.A.C.B.) to Ashbourne which is opened 24 hours a day. I have also been informed by the Garda Commissioner that Dunore is patrolled by members attached to the neighbouring Drogheda District, which is approximately 6Km away.
I can assure the Deputy that this Government is committed to delivering an effective, responsive police service to protect our communities and respond to emerging crime trends. An essential component of our strategy to achieve this is on-going, seamless recruitment of trainee Gardaí. To this end the first intake since 2009 of new recruits commenced training at the Garda College, Templemore, in September of last year. To date there have been six intakes of Garda Trainees to the Garda College, giving a total intake of 550. So far 295 of the new Garda Trainees have attested as members of An Garda Síochána. On attestation, new probationer Gardaí are assigned to stations throughout the country by the Garda Commissioner, where they are assigned to mainstream uniform policing duties. I am assured by Garda management that the needs of all Garda Divisions are fully considered when determining the allocation of newly attested Gardaí and that 15 and 5 of these newly attested Gardaí have been assigned to the Kildare and Meath Garda Divisions respectively.
The Deputy will be aware that I announced the opening of a recruitment campaign for new members of An Garda Síochána last Friday 27 November. This new campaign is necessary to fulfil the Government’s commitment to recruit 600 Gardaí in 2016. The 600 new Gardaí to be recruited next year will bring to 1,150 the total number of new recruits since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014. The Public Appointments Service (PAS) is organising the recruitment competition on behalf of the Garda Commissioner and applications may be made through the PAS website at www.publicjobs.ie. The closing date for applications is Tuesday 5 January 2016.
In relation to emerging crime trends, Operation Thor, which was launched by the Garda Commissioner recently is a multi-stranded national operation which builds on previous and current Garda operations to tackle crime, particularly burglaries the number of which, as we know, increase with the advent of the long winter nights, in both urban and rural communities nationwide. Operation Thor is made possible by the increased investment in policing by this Government, including an allocation of €5 million to specifically support this new Operation.
It entails a broad range of activities to tackle burglars, organised crime gangs and prolific offenders as well as working with communities to prevent crime. These activities include: additional high-visibility patrols in identified burglary hot-spots; increased use of checkpoints to tackle the criminal gangs using the national road network; the use of new high powered vehicles by the armed Regional Response Units; efforts to disrupt the stolen goods market; programmes to help reduce re-offending by prolific offenders; a high-profile national crime prevention awareness campaign, and targeted crime prevention advice for local communities and enhanced supports for victims.
I am confident that this comprehensive operation by An Garda Síochána, supported by Government investment in Garda resources and personnel, will disrupt the activities of burglars, organised crime gangs and prolific offenders and will improve the safety of all our communities across the country.