19. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the recent CSO survey which indicated a fall in detection rates for certain categories of crime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40391/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I understand that the Deputy is referring to detection rates highlighted in the 'Garda Recorded Crime Statistics 2010-2014', which was published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) last week. The first thing that needs to be said is that this publication provides an analysis of data up to the end of 2014 only, and it would be entirely incorrect to suggest that it represents an assessment of the current situation in relation to particular categories of crime.
In relation to the general issue of detection rates, it must be recognised that detection rates do vary according to the nature of the crime and that this is in line with international experience. Detection rates are often found to be lower for certain offences, such as burglaries and some other property crimes, as these generally only come to light after the event and the offender has left the scene. These offences are inherently more difficult to investigate than others such as possession of drugs, for example, where the offender is observed while committing the offence. While our statistical system is not directly comparable with that of other countries, in the UK, for example, similar difficulties exist in detecting burglaries. This is illustrated by Home Office figures which show that over 80% of burglary investigations in 2014/2015 were concluded without a suspect being identified.
To turn to our current situation, the latest CSO assessment of crime rates is the Quarter 2 Recorded Crime Statistics for 2016. These show welcome reductions in a number of crime categories, and the Deputy will be aware that the statistics have shown a very significant decrease in burglary since the launch of Operation Thor in November 2015. In fact, over the first six months of this year there were 36% less burglaries than in the first six months of 2015, underlining the impact of Operation Thor. The reduction in burglaries as a result of Operation Thor will not of course be indicated in the detection rate statistics when they become available for the relevant period but the prevention of crime is always preferable to crimes having been committed which must then be detected.
The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act was commenced a year ago and introduced the DNA database, which provides Gardaí with investigative links (’hits’) between people and unsolved crimes; in particular burglaries. It is anticipated that this should significantly assist in improving detection rates for burglary over the coming years. So far, approximately 532 investigative links between people and unsolved crimes have already been uncovered, including 359 burglary cases. In addition, the database links crime scene samples to each other and so far, 95 crime scene samples have been linked to other crime scene samples, demonstrating a link between two crimes or clusters of crimes committed by the same person in a particular area or locality.
The Government remains committed to tackling all forms of crime and has dedicated very significant resources to support An Garda Síochána in providing the best possible policing service. In this regard I would draw particular attention to the resources allocated to support strategically targeted policing operations, including Operation Thor and operations targeting violent gang-related crime. An additional €55 million has been provided in 2016 resulting in a more than doubling of the overtime allocation for 2016, bringing the total to over €90 million. For 2017, I was pleased to be able to secure a further €71.5 million for Garda overtime which will facilitate the continuation of large scale policing operations, including those targeting burglary, gangland crime and terrorist activities.
The investment in a modern, effective and fit-for-purpose Garda fleet is continuing will continue under the Government’s Capital Plan 2016-2021 which provides €46 million for new Garda vehicles, ensuring that Gardaí can be mobile, visible and responsive, on the roads and in the community. There are further investments in Garda airborne surveillance and enhanced technology and ICT systems with €330 million, including €205 million under the Capital Plan, is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting edge technologies in the fight against crime. All of these investments underline the commitment in the Programme for Government to resource and equip An Garda Síochána to provide enhanced policing and support local communities in all areas of the country.
This Government is 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 deter crime. Plans are in place 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.
I understand that the CSO will publish the next Quarterly Recorded Crime Statistics release before the end of this month. I can assure the Deputy that I will be monitoring crime trends very carefully and will remain in close contact with the Garda Commissioner to ensure that we continue to provide An Garda Síochána with the necessary legislative and financial supports to tackle crime and protect local communities.