Senior officers to meet for crime summit tomorrow

Budget cuts on agenda as Garda Commissioner Callinan heads talks


The most senior Garda officers in the State will tomorrow begin a two-day crime summit to discuss nationwide operations against organised gangs and maintaining public policing in the face of continuing Government cuts.

While targeting the gangs running drug and gun crime will be among the most pressing issues discussed, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and his senior officers will also plan operations against travelling burglary gangs.

The conference in the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, gets underway as news emerged that a dedicated operation to reduce burglaries and catch the most prolific offenders has seen criminal charges pressed in more than 4,000 cases.

The latest data for Operation Fiacla reveals some 6,972 arrests have taken place since its inception in the spring of last year, with 3,971 criminal charges.

The figures are for the period to the end of last month meaning charges have now exceeded 4,000 cases.

Operation Fiacla was put in place 18 months ago and was aimed at gathering intelligence on gangs that travel around the country to plan and carry out burglaries.

Its inception followed a prolonged period in which burglaries continued to rise significantly across the State despite a decline in almost all other forms of crime since the onset of recession.

While many burglaries are opportunistic residential break-ins, others are on a commercial scale and in some cases are carried out by gangs looking to offset the effect of the recession on their drugs businesses.

Garda sources said while operations had been successful against many gangs targeting residential and commercial premises, there remained a number of groups carrying out high value, well researched raids on selected homes and businesses.

“A lot of them steal fast cars to specifically go on crime sprees across the country,” said one source.

“They might hit a few targets like off licences and shops in the space of an hour and then get right out of the area straight away.”

The same officer added because the gangs had a national reach, it was crucial officers from across the State met regularly to discuss operations to augment the general sharing of intelligence throughout the Garda force.

Officers will also discuss how they can best provide a policing service as Garda numbers across the State continue to fall and overtime budgets have been cut.

Speaking ahead of the two-day crime summit, Commissioner Callinan said he was keen to plan ways to reduce road fatalities as road deaths have crept higher this year despite falling to all time lows in the past five years.

He added motorists must ensure their vehicles were prepared for harsher winter conditions and must also slow down.

“As an organisation we can never over-emphasise enough that speed is the single biggest contributory factor in causing deaths on our roads,” he said.

“All road users must take steps to ensure they play their part in improving road safety, not just drivers. Pedestrians should ensure they are visible, and are wearing a hi-viz vest if they are in an area that is poorly lit”.

New structures for community policing will also be discussed tomorrow and Thursday in Templemore.