229. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree to which the most modern technology is available to An Garda Síochána in the fight against crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12381/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for a Partnership Government recognises that Gardaí must have the modern technology and resources necessary to detect and investigate crimes, and to prevent loss and harm to citizens and their property on a 24/7 basis.
The Deputy will also be aware that the key importance of ICT and digital innovation was also emphasised in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and a number of related actions are included in the Implementation Plan for that report - A Policing Service for the Future.
A total of €342 million is being invested by the Government in Garda ICT infrastructure over the period 2016 to 2021. The Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of these resources and decisions in relation to the provision and allocation of equipment and resources, including ICT resources, are for the Commissioner in light of identified operational demands.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that ICT is recognised as an essential tool for supporting the day-to-day operations of Garda members, staff and reserves. On an annual basis, approximately 13.5 million vehicle registrations are read by the Automated Number Plate Recognition System, 1.9 million records are exchanged electronically with the Court Services, 9.3 million PULSE searches are conducted, 19.5 million TETRA digital radio calls are made and 118,000 fingerprints are searched.
A range of ICT equipment is of course generally available, as required, to operational members on a day to day basis in support of these actions. For example official laptops and mobile phones may be issued to senior managers and certain operational members, depending on business needs. Automated Number Plate Recognition technology is available in a number of Garda vehicles. ICT technology is also deployed in air support units and mobile command vehicles providing on-site connectivity to Garda ICT systems and communications.
In terms of ICT systems, I am informed by the Garda authorities that a broad range of ICT projects and initiatives are being progressed to support existing systems and develop them further, with the overall goal of supporting the ongoing business requirements of An Garda Síochána in all fields and enabling them to deploy the latest, cutting-edge technologies in the fight against crime.
For example, I am informed that a number of key ICT initiatives are moving to implementation phase this year, including projects such as:
- roll out of the Rosters and Duty Management System, which will give supervisors better and faster information on the resources available to them;
- phased implementation of the Mobility project, which aims to provide operational Garda members with secure mobile access to Garda systems;
- roll out on a pilot basis of the Investigations Management System, which will standardise, digitise and support the management of all investigations arising from a PULSE incident; and
- establishment of the remaining Regional Control Rooms, to capture emergency calls and dispatch of resources to the incident and staged deployment of a new national Computer Aided Dispatch System.
A project to enhance network access to rural Garda stations is also currently being progressed. Work on this project is well advanced and options are being explored to provide members attached to the remaining stations not yet networked with local access to Garda ICT services. In that regard it is important to note that any member attached to a currently unconnected Garda station can access PULSE at their local district station and that members attached to non-networked locations can also contact the Garda Information Services Centre (GISC) or an associated networked station if required.
An Garda Síochána is also, in collaboration with my Department, actively progressing a number of EU ICT projects with a view to improving police co-operation, including implementation of the PRÜM initiative and the Schengen Information System.
The ongoing investment in Garda ICT underpinning these and other projects is in support of the Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.