200 garda boost for specialist crime units

Special crime operations are to be boosted by more than 200 gardaí in the coming year as new recruits come on stream.

Units benefiting include those targeting organised crime, fraud and sexual violence as well as a new team combating the growing threat of cyber crime.

Figures provided to the Irish Examiner show that up to 150 detective gardaí and up to 60 detective sergeants are to be transferred to Special Crime Operations during 2017.

Special Crime Operations (SCO) is the new name for National Support Services and was a title change recommended by the Garda Inspectorate.

It includes a host of national crime units, some of whose names have also been changed as well as units that have been expanded. These comprise of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the Economic Crime Bureau (previously Bureau of Fraud Investigation), the National Immigration Bureau, the National Criminal Investigation Bureau, the Protective Services Bureau, the Technical Investigation Bureau, and the Computer Crime Investigation Unit.

All these units come under SCO assistant commissioner John O’Driscoll.

Many of the units, including fraud, the Technical Bureau, and the Criminal Investigation Bureau, suffered significant vacancies because of cuts to Garda numbers since 2015.

In addition, new or expanded units, like cyber crime and protective services bureau, have not yet been able to function fully as they have been awaiting significant staffing.

“Up to 60 detective sergeants and up to 150 detective gardaí will fill vacancies that arise in Special Crime Operations during 2017,” said a garda source.

He explained the transfers will not happen all at once but in stages to correspond with new recruits coming out of the Garda College.

“It will be done on a phased basis — at the same time as probationers come out of Templemore so as not to denude the frontline.”

This is to ensure that regular garda units, very hard hit by the recruitment moratorium, do not suffer from the investment in special national units.

The Computer Crime Investigation Unit, which has long suffered a lack of sufficient investment, will be one of the main beneficiaries of the boost in numbers.

The unit, headed by a detective superintendent, has two sections: Cyber Crime and Computer Forensics.

It will also oversee the establishment of regional CCIUs, with two pilot units already operating in Ballincollig and New Ross.

The Protective Services Bureau will also get extra staffing. Set up in 2015, the unit added human trafficking, organised prostitution and missing persons to an existing brief of sexual and domestic violence investigation and sex offender management.

The development comes as figures show 275 gardaí were promoted to rank of sergeant between January and November 2016, while 102 sergeants were promoted to inspector.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is due to announce new competitions for those ranks shortly.

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