Garda chief Martin Callinan said the epidemic of burglaries across the country was a causing the force a “headache”.
The commissioner said he had set up a national operation targeting gangs which roam counties carrying out burglaries and robberies.
Operation Fiacla has identified 300 of the country’s top burglars and more than 30 have so far been arrested and charged.
The commissioner also acknowledged the closure of rural Garda stations would have “some impact” in terms of supporting safer communities, but said his management team were trying to make sure the same level of services would be provided.
Speaking at the launch of the Garda Supporting Safer Communities Campaign, Mr Callinan said it was generally accepted there was a link between the recession and criminal activity.
“Crime trends, when you look at them over a period of time, rise and fall. From our perspective, this is an opportunity for us to focus particularly on burglaries, as they are causing us a headache at the moment. That’s what we’ve done with Operation Fiacla.”
In relation to cases this year which could test new laws allowing homeowners to shoot burglars, Mr Callinan said the “real acid test” would be when cases come before the courts.
He said the DPP was “well capable” of weighing up whether or not a homeowner may have gone too far.
“I think the law is quite clear in terms of homeowners and what they’re entitled to do. Beyond that the circumstances will dictate whether or not people have gone beyond what they are supposed to have done. But people are entitled to defend their home and that’s clear in the legislation.”
He said reducing the fear of crime in the community was of fundamental importance to the gardaí.
But he declined to comment on the announcement this week that an additional 400 prisoners would be released early every year as part of a new programme.
Mr Callinan said this was a matter for the Government and authorities in the Prison Service and the Probation Service.
“I would rely on their professionalism and their expertise as to what type of decisions are made to discharge people who are presently serving sentences and release them into the public domain prematurely,” he said.
In relation to road safety, Mr Callinan said the force detected 250,000 speeding offences last year, 15,000 seatbelt breaches, 10,000 for drink driving and 33,000 mobile phone violations.
Meanwhile, he said the discovery of a massive 20kg bomb in a pond in Phoenix Park — which Garda sources said was sufficient to “blow up the GPO” — was not the work of criminal gangs.
He said gardaí had “huge successes” against dissidents republicans in the last two years.
* See garda.ie for safety advice.
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