116. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree to which his Department through An Garda Síochána continues to achieve progress in the fight against organised criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50016/18]

117. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which An Garda Síochána can step up intelligence and surveillance of criminal gangs that are likely to target persons living in isolated areas or cash in transit in the run up to Christmas in particular; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50017/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 117 together.
I can assure the Deputy that tackling organised crime activity in both rural and urban areas is a key ongoing priority for both the Government and An Garda Síochána. An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan sets out the priorities of An Garda Síochána in tackling organised crime activity, with an emphasis on its continued commitment to pro-actively target groups and individuals engaged in criminal activity, including organised criminal activities.
In tackling such activity, An Garda Síochána continues to develop and implement operations and strategies aimed at targeting, dismantling and disrupting criminal networks, utilising advanced analytical and intelligence methodologies. Multi-disciplinary approaches are also utilised to ensure the activities of individuals and groups involved in criminal enterprise are effectively targeted, including through the use of proceeds of crime legislation, money-laundering legislation, the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 relating to organised crime and the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau. In addition, the increased Government investment in the Garda fleet will allow Gardaí to continue to effectively police our roads network.
The Programme for Government underlines the need for close engagement between An Garda Síochána and local communities. This is an essential feature of the strong community policing ethos which has long been central to policing in this jurisdiction. The Deputy will be aware that, as part of the overall strategy to oppose criminality, the Garda authorities pursue a range of partnerships with community stakeholders, including the farming organisations. In that connection, Operation Thor has yielded significant results in tackling property related crime and burglary, including in rural areas.
The Deputy will also be aware that Operation Hybrid was established to coordinate the response to violent crime in Dublin and address concerns about community safety. That Operation benefits from significant support by Armed Support Units.
As of 18 November, Operation Hybrid has resulted in: 84 arrests, 11 charges in total, 37 firearms seized, 283 searches carried out, 16,821 lines of enquiry conducted with more than 71,600 high visibility checkpoints, implemented with support from Armed Support Units. A significant amount of CCTV footage, mobile phone traffic, and forensic evidence has also been examined. Gardaí have had notable successes in targeting the drugs trade, which fuels the activities of organised criminals, resulting in significant seizures of drugs, firearms and information on financial transactions..
The Deputy will appreciate that for reasons of security it would not be appropriate to go into the details of the particular arrangements that the Garda Authorities have in place in respect of the security of cash-in-transit transfers. What I can say is that combatting and disrupting attempts by organised criminal gangs to commit cash robberies, often carried out with the threat or use of violence, is a priority for the Gardaí. The Gardaí work on an ongoing basis with the financial institutions and the security companies involved to enhance the protection of the individuals involved in carrying out this business and to facilitate the security of the arrangements in place for the transfer of cash.
While we should not underestimate the difficulties which the Garda authorities face in tackling organised criminal activity, we continue to see the significant results of their efforts in the arrests made and persons being brought before the Courts, as well as the ongoing drugs and firearms seizures made.
For it's part the Government remains committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. A total budget of €1.76 billion has been provided to An Garda Síochána in 2019, an increase of over €100 million on the 2018 allocation. The Government will also continue to progress the accelerated Garda recruitment programme with a view to increasing overall Garda numbers (including civilians) to 21,000 by 2021.