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Topical Issues Debate
28 June 2016
The increased level of anti-social behaviour, street drug dealing and violence in provincial towns and the lack of response by the authorities to it.
Opening remarks by Minister of State, David Stanton TD on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD
I am speaking on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality who regrets that he cannot be present due to other official commitments. He is grateful to the Deputy for raising this matter in the House today.
The Minister is of course very much aware of the impact of street crime and anti-social behaviour on local communities and the general social environment in towns around the country. There are well-recognised effects in terms of the fear of crime and overall community morale.
I hope the Deputy will appreciate that the policing response to such crimes, including the deployment of Garda resources at local level, is a matter for the Garda authorities in the first instance. The Minister is advised that Garda management carefully monitors the incidence of such crime and that Garda resources are deployed in response to changing crime trends. This may include directing resources at areas designated as “hot-spots” for anti-social behaviour, and high visibility policing in the vicinity of entertainment venues and licensed premises, especially when people are entering and exiting.
In terms of our existing legislative provisions, there is a strong body of legislation contained in the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Acts and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts to address these sorts of “street crime” offences. These include powers for Gardaí to seize alcohol on the street where there is an apprehension of pubic disorder.
However, it is clear that Gardaí face significant challenges in dealing with public disorder and anti-social behaviour that is fuelled by the misuse of alcohol. Clearly, these matters cannot be addressed by policing measures alone. The underlying issues about the misuse of alcohol and taking responsibility for personal behaviour are part of a much wider debate for our society.
In addition, Gardaí conduct intelligence-led operations to target particular suspects or criminal activities, such as drug-dealing. Deputies will also be aware that Gardaí have had a number of very significant successes in recent months in targeting drugs crime with seizures of very large amounts of drugs. These seizures are the result of painstaking and professional police work which is aimed at dismantling the criminal networks that are behind the visible manifestations of drugs misuse which are evident on our streets.
At the heart of the concerns expressed by the Deputy, is the relationship between communities and their local Gardaí It is worth recalling that the Programme for a Partnership Government underlines the importance of community policing in responding to the concerns and expectation of both urban and rural communities.
The Minister is advised that it remains a key priority for An Garda Síochána to tackle public disorder and anti-social behaviour by working with communities to reduce this type of behaviour and to enhance community safety. This approach includes a strong focus on quality of life issues and collaboration with local authorities to help address the causes of anti-social behaviour. Gardaí engage in a range of partnership approaches with communities to address local concerns as well as participating in more formal structures such as Joint Policing Committees which have an important role in developing strategies to tackle issues of local concern.
Indeed, Minister Flanagan has asked me to emphasise that Joint Policing Committees have a very important role to in facilitating consultation, cooperation and synergy on policing and crime issues between An Garda Síochána, Local Authorities and elected local representatives and active and constructive engagement by elected members is very important.
In conclusion, the Minister would like to re-affirm that the Government remains committed to supporting the Gardaí to make communities safer. The Government has devoted very significant resources for policing in recent years, and this will continue, in particular through the accelerated programme of Garda recruitment. This undoubtedly will enhance policing services for all communities across the country.