Garda unit to get ‘in the face’ of organised crime

GARDA Commissioner Fachtna Murphy is to create a full-time Organised Crime Unit which is set to target serious criminals.

The commissioner made the announcement yesterday and said he wanted officers in the unit to be “in the faces” of hardened criminals, tracking, arresting and bringing them before the courts. A pilot scheme was created in November 2005, but its ranks were filled by seconding officers from other Garda units.

Now the commissioner intends to establish a full-time, specialist unit to further the significant success already achieved by the pilot scheme.

He revealed that, last year, the pilot unit alone was responsible for arresting 130 criminals suspected of armed robbery, drug trafficking, aggravated burglary and firearms offences.

The unit conducted 120 searches resulting in the seizure of e7 million of drugs and 30 firearms.

“The unit’s main target will be organised crime and particularly gun crime,” the commissioner said.

At present there are 70 gardaí working in the unit, but Commissioner Murphy said he would increase that number if it was warranted.

“Their focus is on targeted, intelligence-led operations across a range of criminality and working closely with other units such as Garda National Drugs Unit and Garda National Immigration Unit,” he said.

The full-time unit is to be lead by Detective Superintendent Dominic Hayes and is under the control of Detective Chief Superintendent Noel White of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The commissioner said he believed the Organised Crime Unit would work effectively with other units such as the Drugs Squad and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Asked if there could be concerns over operating in other units’ patches, Commissioner Murphy replied: “I don’t anticipate any tension with other units.”

The commissioner made the announcement at the Garda graduation ceremony at Templemore, Co Tipperary, yesterday.

Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan, who was also at the ceremony, said there had been a reduction in the number of gangland gun murders last year and also in the number of cash-in-transit robberies “which were the lifeblood of organised crime”.

Both acknowledged, however, that gun crime was still an issue and the commissioner admitted that he was concerned about the number of fatal stabbings.

Commissioner Murphy said that most of these occurred within houses and therefore where gardaí would not normally be at the scene to prevent them.

He said that reducing such crime needed an inter-agency approach, but added that in the meantime he was considering launching an awareness campaign on the issue.

He did not say what that would entail.

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