Thursday, 11 July 2019
Taisceadán (Valuable Property Register) Bill 2019: First Stage
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the establishment of Taisceadán, a Register of items of personal property to be managed by An Garda Síochána to assist in the identification of items of personal property, for the purposes of investigation of crime, for the repatriation of items of property and to provide for related matters.
I wish to share time with Deputy Martin Kenny, who is co-sponsor of the Bill.
The Bill involves a simple but practical concept. Every community in Ireland has been affected adversely by the significant rate of theft of property, in particular valuable property. That theft can have enormous consequences, including for people's livelihoods. The theft of farm equipment has increased by 40% in recent times and almost €8 million worth of tools and equipment were stolen over a ten-month period last year. According to figures released last year, more than 14,000 bicycles with an estimated total value of €2 million have been stolen since 2016, 83% of them being taken in the major cities of Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Galway. Very often, goods are stolen for resale, in particular expensive equipment. However, it is difficult for An Garda Síochána to identify and seize goods if gardaí cannot determine whether they have been stolen, even though they believe that to be the case. It is also difficult even when goods can be seized to return them to their owners. While Garda stations are full of such materials, IFA crime prevention officer, Barry Carey, said at a Garda property recovery day held recently in Nenagh, 99% of stolen goods could not be returned to their owners.
Our proposition is called "Taisceadán", which is the Irish term for a safe or safety deposit box. Taisceadán would be a national property register creating a centralised system organised and managed by An Garda Síochána to catalogue property with a specific identification number for expensive properties such as, but not limited to, trade tools, bicycles, technology and farm machinery. Taisceadán would be similar to the model in Britain, namely the National Mobile Property Register, which is connected to the national police computer and is used by 100% of police districts. In London, for example, 40,000 searches are made of the database each month with approximately 20% of searches returning a matched item and reuniting a person with his or her property. Items may be marked with stencils or by using a Telesis device, which has laser technology to mark items with their owners' eircodes. While this is happening in some local authorities, a register is required for the system to work properly. All Garda divisions should have access to the technology that can be provided to the community for marking. People could register marked property on the Taiseadán website and report it if stolen. If property was discovered being resold, gardaí would be much better placed to charge those who stole it. This system would require a significant publicity campaign to ensure public awareness of the technology.
This is a simple and practical proposal to help gardaí and people who have had their property stolen. Property crime has a significant impact. People might save up for an expensive bicycle and lose it to thieves. Tradespeople have expensive tools. A bench saw could be €400, for example. If specialist equipment like that is stolen, it can put people out of work or out of business. We need to deal with that and this is a simple and practical yet significant step towards do so.
A national property register is long overdue. We all know many people around the country who have had property stolen and cannot relocate it. That property is often found but never returned to its owners because it is found in a different part of the country. In Sligo and Leitrim, the local authorities are engaged in a process of marking property for people. At marts, they mark trailers, farm machinery and other expensive items and put people's eircodes on them so that if they are ever stolen, they can be recovered. For that to happen, however, we need a national register of this data that gardaí can access to return people's property if it is found after being stolen. It is a simple enough Bill and we recommend it to the House. We expect all Members will support it to bring this to a conclusion.