310. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the action being taken to combat crime levels as the festive season approaches; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58159/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána under the Garda Síochána Act 2005. This responsibility includes the organisation of specific operations and the assignment of personnel.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the winter phase of Operation Thor was launched on 1 October 2021 and will run until 31 March 2022. Operation Thor is designed to tackle the increase in the number of burglaries and associated criminal activity that usually occur in winter months by undertaking targeted enforcement and preventative activity, highlighted through public information campaigns including 'Lock up, Light up' etc. These initiatives have been successful in dramatically reducing the rate of winter burglaries, leading to a significant decline in property-related crime since its introduction in 2015.
The National Crime Prevention Unit at the Garda Community Engagement Bureau also supports a nationwide network of Crime Prevention Officers. Each Garda division has an appointed Crime Prevention Officer.
An Garda Síochána continues to implement high visibility policing plans to address public disorder related issues and anti-social behaviour, with particular overt and targeted policing of public places at times when public order incidents and anti-social behaviour typically increase, such as bank holiday weekends.
In particular, An Garda Síochána commenced Operation Citizen on 22 October. This operation is focused on reassuring the public, residents, visitors, businesses and workers that Dublin city centre is a positive, safe environment. Particular focus is being placed on anti-social behaviour, public order and quality of life issues, assaults and high volume crimes. This will be achieved by increased visible policing, particularly at key locations, and further maximising the impact of that visibility. The Operation will also focus on community and stakeholder engagement.
I am also informed that Operation Hurdle has been established in the Wicklow Division each year since 2012 to target the theft of Christmas trees in the period between the end of October and Christmas. Operation Hurdle 2021 is running in conjunction with COVID-19 national policing patrols in the Wicklow Division and Operation Thor checkpoints stopping and checking vehicles transporting Christmas trees. The operation focuses on improving liaison with local Christmas tree growers, their staff and security staff. Patrols are carried out around Christmas tree farms in the Division. I understand that the operation has had a significant impact on reducing the level of Christmas tree theft over recent years.
The Deputy may also be aware of An Garda Síochána's enhanced national anti-drugs strategy, Operation Tara, which has a strong focus on tackling street-level dealing throughout rural and urban Ireland. The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels - international, national and local - involved in the importation, distribution, cultivation, production, local sale and supply of controlled drugs.