77. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the additional resources that will be made available to An Garda Síochána in County Louth under Operation Thor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42425/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Operation Thor 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. In excess of €5 million is being committed to support Operation Thor. This allocation, which includes funding for Garda overtime will support a combination of additional patrols, checkpoints, rapid armed response and public awareness measures.
This special, targeted operation has to be seen in the context of the major investment that this Government is making in An Garda Síochána. 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 an additional €200 million for Information and Communications Technology which will allow An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting edge technologies in the fight against crime. We are also investing 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.
Operation Thor 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.
The Commissioner, in consultation with her senior management team, is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including the additional allocation of the €5 million to support Operation Thor. The Commissioner has assured me that she will aim to maximise the use of these additional resources. A large proportion of domestic burglaries are committed by serial offenders. Figures from the Garda Síochána Analysis Service indicate that 75% of burglaries are committed by 25% of burglars. Targeting these prolific offenders is a priority, consequently the allocation of resources under Operation Thor will be intelligence led and based on analysis of crime patterns by An Garda Síochána. The aim is to deploy resources in advance of where An Garda Síochána anticipate crime might take place in order to prevent the crime occurring.
In this context the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible to detail the additional resources that will be made available to any one County under Operation Thor. However the Commissioner will continually review the allocation of resources under the Operation, taking into account crime trends and policing priorities across the Garda Regions so as to ensure that the best possible use is made of these resources. I am confident that this comprehensive operation by An Garda Síochána, supported by Government investment, will help disrupt the activities of burglars, organised crime gangs and prolific offenders and will improve the safety of all our communities across the country.