Home > Policing Authority assessment of policing performance 2023.

Policing Authority. (2024) Policing Authority assessment of policing performance 2023. Dublin: Policing Authority.

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The Policing Authority was established as an independent statutory body on 1 January 2016 to oversee the performance of the Garda Síochána in relation to policing services in Ireland. Our Mission is to hold the Garda Síochána fairly and transparently to account in the interests of all, particularly the most vulnerable. 

P.13. 3.2 Tackling organised and serious crime - Desired Outcome: Under this Priority the Garda Síochána is working to prevent and disrupt the activities of organised criminals, including those of international networks, engaged in national and transnational crime and reduce their impact on communities. 

The Garda Síochána continued to have considerable success in response to organised crime in 2023. In part this is evidenced by the seizure of drugs, assets and cash by the Garda Síochána and its partners. This includes a number of high-profile, large seizures. As can be seen in table 1 below, the €211m worth of drugs seized in 2023, represents almost 40% of all drugs seized since the formation of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) in 2015. These seizures, and those made in other jurisdictions, not only impact Ireland but also the networks and drug supply in other European countries. In this regard, perhaps more significantly than the quantities seized, is the fact that each large-scale seizure also represents the disruption of organised criminal groups’ supply chains. In this respect the Garda Síochána and its national and international partners continue to have notable success as evidenced by seizures, arrests and prosecutions...

Drug-related Intimidation - Despite these successes, there remains a prevalence of drug and drug related crime in communities across the country, who consistently raise this as an area of concern with the Authority. Foremost of concern is drug related intimidation (DRI). This is the use of violence, other criminal behaviour, or the threat of such, to coerce people into paying debts (real or inflated) or undertaking criminal activity, such as storing drugs in the home. It is a pernicious crime, and one that is characterised by low levels of reporting out of fear. Victims are not just those who have built up drug debts, but often their wider circle of family and/or friends. Where a victim has been involved in drug use, often the decision not to report can be based on a fear of consequences for criminal activity undertaken that has resulted in the accumulation of debt, or as a consequence of coercion. While this might be the case, it is crucial that there is an approach to DRI that recognises the individual as a victim, regardless of the fact that they may also be a suspect. As a victim of DRI, they possess the same rights and confer the same responsibilities on the Garda Síochána as any other victim.

Ensuring an appropriate policing response to DRI is and will remain a persistent challenge for the Garda Síochána. There cannot practically be a permanent presence for each victim, nor can the Garda Síochána provide advice on whether or not victims should pay debts to organised crime groups or undertake criminality on their behalf. Members consistently speak of the difficulty in engaging with victims on this basis, and on effective ways to encourage reporting. That said, there have been recent increases in reporting, and notable successes, charges and convictions achieved. Despite this, the issue of under-reporting is recognised as a significant challenge for the Garda Síochána and it is evident that policing in a vacuum cannot wholly prevent or solve DRI – or wider drug and drug related crime. In recognition of this, under the National Drug Strategy the Drug Related Intimidation and Violence Engagement (DRIVE) programme is being rolled out nationwide by the Department of Health. DRIVE is a multi-agency approach involving policing, health, and community support. Primarily it will offer support to victims of DRI, and provide agencies, including the Garda Síochána with more information on the scale of the problem and provide a forum for a multi-agency response centre on victim support and education. In 2023, the DRIVE committee were engaged in educational roll-out nationally with the Garda Síochána, along with other agencies and community and voluntary groups were represented at all DRIVE information events across the country.

Acquisitive Crime - In respect of acquisitive crime (theft, burglary, etc.) there are two clear trends of note (see figure 4 below). Firstly there is a long-term, sustained reduction in the number of burglaries. In part this is due to the ongoing, annual undertaking of Operation Thor – a Garda operation focussed on burglary prevention and on disrupting organised crime groups that engage in burglary – and its continued success. It may also be reflective of changes in the activity undertaken by OCGs (organised criminal gangs), with engagement suggesting that groups are moving towards the lower risk, higher reward crimes of drug and drug related crime, and online fraud and other economic crimes. Secondly, there has been a recent spike in the number of theft from shop incidents. This is being seen in other jurisdictions and the Authority welcomes the commencement of Operation Táirge in December 2023. This is aimed at detecting and preventing organised retail crime...

P.21 Roads policing - The Authority has amended the Policing Priorities to include two new success measures pertaining to Roads Policing: Improve road safety in conjunction with partners through the provision of new technologies, public awareness and education, and increased information sharing. Demonstration of a strategic and operational approach to roads policing activity, including enforcement, that is evidence-based, consistent, and responds to local and national trends.

The second concerns the need to ensure that the Garda Síochána alters its approach to reflect trends such as increased prevalence of driving under the influence of drugs, the growth of distracted driving, the increased rate of pedestrian road deaths, etc. While in respect of driver education, public awareness, and introduction of technology, the Garda Síochána is reliant on partners, the general strategic approach to enforcement activity is the decision of Garda management nationally and locally. In this vein, there has been the positive use of Operation Surround, large scale checkpoints and testing, and the increased use of drug testing devices at the road side in 2023. However, the Authority is aware that in respect of the regular units undertaking roads policing activity, the current pressures on the frontline in terms of reduced resources and increased demand is such that there is less of an ability to allocate the regular to roads duties. In terms of the rise of drug driving detections, the Authority is aware of local concerns in many divisions as to the lack of availability of doctors to administer blood tests on suspects arrested on the roadside. Currently, the Garda Síochána following a roadside test and arrest, must have a doctor undertake a blood test to confirm the presence of drugs or alcohol. This is required to progress with charges. However, there is a widespread challenge in accessing doctors in a timely manner and as such there are suspects of drink or drug driving that are required to be released without charge after a number of hours without test. There has also been a documented decrease in the number of members allocated to roads policing units nationally. However it is important to note that there is no strong evidence that changes in roads policing members’ numbers have a strong influence on road collisions and that 25% of roads policing enforcement is undertaken by members on regular units – this rises to 75% of all drink driving offence detections. This makes the above point regarding a lesser capacity to assign regular units to roads activity concerning......

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