herald

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Gardai to get 191 new vehicles to blitz crime gangs

Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald
Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald

A new garda fleet of high-powered cars and motorcycles is being brought on stream in a bid to combat criminal gangs.

Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has signed off on the purchase of 191 new vehicles after finding €4m of savings in her department, the Herald can reveal.

Many of the vehicles will be used to boost the force's "motorway patrol unit" which targets criminal gangs suspected of using the network to carry out burglaries and other crimes.

Concern

The fleet, to be rolled out in the new year, is designed to increase garda visibility in communities.

While CSO figures have shown a fall in burglaries in 2016 nationally, rates in Dublin have experienced sharp hikes.

Serious concern has been raised over gardai downgrading crimes or not recorded on the Pulse system. There is also the problem of crimes not being reported to gardai at all, particularly in rural areas that have seen a reduction in gardai.

Ms Fitzgerald has managed to shore up extra cash after finding savings in her department since the October Budget.

The investment will equip gardai with more high-powered vehicles, marked and unmarked patrol cars and motorcycles.

"This is to ensure that they can be mobile, visible and responsive on the roads and in the community to prevent and tackle crime," a source said.

The move by Ms Fitzgerald will be seen as a response to accusations in the past that the Government has not done enough to combat crime, particularly in rural Ireland.

A core group of up to 10 family-based mobs are involved in the crime wave that has targeted vulnerable rural homes and used the country's motorway system to make rapid getaways.

Success

The gangs, who use high-powered cars that often speed away from garda vehicles, are mostly Dublin-based, made up of criminals based in suburban areas in the south of the capital.

It is estimated that more than 300 criminals are involved.

Gardai have also complained about vehicles being too old but a source said that the investment is reflective on the current age profile of the garda vehicle fleet.

Some 38pc of the fleet is now under two years old, compared to 5pc in 2012.

"Investment in new cars is vital to ensure the continued success of key garda operations such as Operation Thor," said a source.

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