Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 233 - Gangland crime [33480/17].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 233 - Gangland crime [33480/17]. (13 Jul 2017)

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233. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date in combatting gangland feuds with particular reference to ensuring that the rule of law applies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33480/17]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will appreciate that the response to gang-related violence and crime is ongoing and we must remain adaptable to changing circumstances in pursuing a comprehensive and robust response to gang-related violence and crime. I remain in close contact with the Commissioner and I will continue to provide every support possible to enable An Garda Síochána face down the threat posed by violent criminal gangs.


  As the Deputy is aware, the Government has enacted new legislation to further target criminal activities including the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2016 which provides additional powers for Gardaí; in particular, powers to allow in certain circumstances for the immediate seizure of assets suspected of being the proceeds of crime to prevent them being disposed of. The thresholds applying under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 are also to be reduced from €13,000 to €5,000.


  We have also made new regulations to reduce the prescribed amount of cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime which can be seized, from €6,500 to €1,000. In addition, the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016, brought forward by the Minister for Health, has new provisions to counteract the illegal sale of prescription drugs.


  On 5 July 2016, Government approval was granted in relation to enhancing and updating legislation for the lawful interception of communications and for covert electronic surveillance, and work in this regard is ongoing. My Department and An Garda Síochána are also considering if there are any other legislative measures which might strengthen the response to the activities of organised crime groups.


  We have also seen the introduction of rules of court to complete the establishment of a second Special Criminal Court, so that it can deal with the backlog of cases on hand.


  The Deputy is aware of the substantial investments which have been made in policing resources. Indeed, for 2017, a further allocation of €88.5 million for Garda overtime has been made available which will facilitate the continuation of large-scale policing operations, including those targeting gangland crime, burglary and terrorist activities.


  Garda operational responses to gang-related crime in Dublin are coordinated under Operation Hybrid. As of 18 May 2017, there have been 56 arrests in relation to gang-related killings, with 5 persons charged in connection with those murders and a further 3 persons charged with related offences. In addition, 26 firearms have been seized and over 11,900 lines of enquiry conducted. In excess of 31,550 high visibility checkpoints have been implemented with significant support from Armed Support Units and a significant amount of CCTV footage, mobile phone traffic, and forensic evidence is also being examined. Operation Hybrid is reviewed on a weekly basis to maintain optimal impact.


  We have also seen unprecedented cooperation between Irish and Spanish authorities leading to important arrests and seizures, with police officers from both jurisdictions participating in successful joint operations in Ireland and in Spain. There has also been an important arrest of a suspect in the Netherlands and I am committed to ensuring that Gardaí will continue to have all necessary supports to continue their pursuit of criminal groups in cooperation with other police forces as required.


  The new dedicated Armed Support Unit for the Dublin Metropolitan Region was launched on 14 December 2016, and is now operational on a 24/7 basis. The establishment of the new ASU had been a particular priority given the identified need to enhance armed support capability in Dublin and to free up the resources of the Emergency Response Unit. All the necessary resources have been provided to equip the new ASU and we have also taken steps to upgrade the equipment available to the Emergency Response Unit and the Special Detective Unit.


  During 2016, the Garda Commissioner established a Special Crime Task Force to target a number of organised crime gangs based in the Dublin area with particular emphasis on the second and third level criminals. As part of the setting up of this unit, which is under the control of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, 6 additional Garda members and 1 Sergeant were seconded to the Bureau to assist in the investigations into the persons identified to trace and target any assets which have been generated through their criminal conduct.


  Asset Profilers trained by the Bureau provide a criminal asset profiling service in each Garda Division in relation to persons or suspects operating within their area, with particular reference to those involved in serious criminal activity. Currently the number of trained Garda Asset Profilers is 288, plus Revenue Customs and Social Protection trained asset profilers, making a total of 311 asset profilers throughout the State.


  Underpinning all these measures is this Government's commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. In 2017, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Appointments will also be made to the Garda Reserve of approximately 300.

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