The Criminal Assets Bureau has increased its number of targets by 36%, to more than 1,300 people, in the first nine months of this year.
The bureau has also seen a massive rise in the value of new asset seizure cases in the High Court, set to approach €100 million in 2019, compared to €8.2m in 2018 – in the main due to a colossal bitcoin case, with a notional value of €50m.
In a speech, CAB boss Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Clavin said the Regency Hotel attack in February 2016, which ignited the Kinahan-Hutch feud, was a “wake up call” for gardaí and a “turning point” in how law enforcement thinks about organised crime.
Addressing the Institute of International and European Affairs, the bureau chief said, as of last September, they had 1,321 criminals in their sights, compared to 973 at the end of 2018.
That marks a continuing increase, with the number more than doubling since 2016 (600 targets).
The Garda divisions with the biggest increases this year include Wicklow, Waterford and Clare, which have doubled their numbers, with the next biggest increases in Roscommon/Longford, Sligo/Leitrim and Cork city, which have jumped by around, or up to, 70%.
Chief Supt Clavin said Dublin West Garda division had by far the highest number of targets, at 235 to date, up from 177 at the end of 2018 (up 33%).
He said this is double the number of the next highest divisions – Dublin South (116, up from 110) and Dublin North (113, up from 80).
The next highest division continues to be Limerick, with 98 targets, up from 72.
Though the number of targets is a lot smaller in Cork city, it has increased by 67% (from 18 to 30).
Chief Clavin said there has been a “growing trend” in the counties around Dublin, including a 36% rise in Meath, a 34% increase in Kildare, a 55% jump in Laois/Offaly, and a 100% increase in Wicklow – saying this could also represent Dublin criminals having assets in these counties.
The border divisions have also seen an increase, up 36% in Louth, 48% in Cavan/Monaghan and 70% in Sligo/Leitrim.
Chief Clavin put the increases down to a nationwide tour CAB did in local joint policing committees and a continuing rise in the number of local asset profilers in garda divisions.
During 2017 and 2018, Chief Clavin and other senior officers addressed all 37 local joint policing committees across the country.
He said there are now 427 trained local asset profilers, 402 of them gardaí. This compares to 378 profilers (353 gardaí) at the end of 2018 and 259 in 2017.
He described these profilers as the “eyes and ears” of CAB around the country.
The bureau boss said he is against the idea, which has been called for by community drug organisations, for “mini-CABs” in local areas, dedicated to targeting local drug figures.
He pointed out that CAB has 91 officers in total and that it would “dilute” its resources by creating local or regional bureaus. He also said from a security, and operational, point of view, it assists in having all staff in one central building.
Chief Clavin said that due to the work of local profilers, the bureau has been “targetting more lower and mid-level” dealers and criminals.
He said this feeds into their philosophy to “hit them harder and earlier” in a bid to prevent these individuals getting themselves deeper into a life of organised crime.
He commended the work of former Fine Gael TD Nora Owen, who was part of the 1996 Government that set up CAB and who chaired the IIEA conference and former garda commissioner, and first chief of CAB, Fachtna Murphy, who was also present at the event.