Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here today to launch the Business Watch scheme for the South Great George's Street area.

Business today operates in an ever changing environment.  It has to adapt and cope with new challenges every day and I am glad to say that Irish business is rising to these challenges.

In this changing environment, the cost of crime is an especially unwelcome burden.  We have to ensure that business has an environment as free as possible from crime and its consequences in which to develop. 

The Garda Síochána plays a central and vital role in the prevention and detection of crime.  Both elements – prevention and detection - are important.  A police force needs the assistance of others in doing both, and I believe that there is growing recognition of this.  Business people should of course report all incidents of crime carried out in and around their businesses to the Gardaí.  But law enforcement by the Garda Síochána in itself is not the complete answer.  They need help and assistance from us, as individuals, organisations and businesses – in essence the community.  In our fight against criminality in our society, we must be willing and able to embrace new concepts and ideas and exploit initiatives like Business Watch to their full potential. 

Business Watch essentially involves a partnership between the Garda Síochána and the local business community to prevent and reduce crime through awareness of what can and needs to be done to reduce crime, alertness to what is happening in the locality and commitment to action.  A scheme like Business Watch provides a very important channel of communication between the local business community and the Gardaí.  In recent years the Garda Síochána have given a high priority to developing their involvement with the communities they serve.  Equally, the increased awareness by the public of the role which they can play in crime prevention is to be welcomed.  To develop this to its full potential, the Government places a high importance on initiatives such as Business Watch, Neighbourhood Watch and Community Alert. 

To develop the connections between the community and the Garda Síochána the last Government introduced legislation to establish joint policing committees in every local authority area in the country.  These committees are a partnership process involving the Garda Síochána and the elected national and local representatives and with the participation of the community and voluntary sector in a local authority’s area.  Before the committees are established for all 114 local authorities in the country, a pilot project is running, made up of committees in 29 local authorities.  One of these is Dublin City Council.  Special provision is also being made for the city.  Because of its size, five sub-committees have been set up, corresponding to the five administrative areas of the city. 

A joint policing committee covers a range of functions.  It monitors two broad areas.  The first is the levels and patterns of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour in its area.  This includes patterns and levels of misuse of alcohol and drugs.  As well as that, it monitors the broader issue of the factors underlying and contributing to crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour.  Following on from this, the committee advises the local authority and the Garda Síochána on how they might best perform their functions, having regard to the need to do everything feasible to improve the safety and quality of life and to prevent crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour within the area.  The local area sub-committees carry out the same function for their own areas.  I believe that the committees have the potential to make an enormous contribution to tackling the problems local communities are facing.  

I would like to congratulate all those who have worked so hard to establish this scheme and who, I'm certain, will continue their efforts to make it a very successful one.  I would like in particular to thank David Baker, the chairman of the Business Watch management committee, who has been involved in similar initiatives for a long time, Joseph Hennessey and David Hyland.  As business people you have a lot of calls on your time.  It is heartening that you and your colleagues make the time available to bring forward initiatives of this type.  In so doing, you are helping both your businesses, the local community and the many people who visit your area for business and recreation. 

On the side of the Garda Síochána, a special commendation is due to Garda Joanne McCormack and Garda Michael Canavan who will be the visible face of the Gardaí to local businesses and the public.  Thanks are also due to Superintendent John Twomey, Inspector Richard McDonnell and Sergeant Vanessa O’Keeffe from Pearse Street who are contributing to making the scheme a success. 

To all of you, may I wish the best.  I'm quite certain that this initiative will be very successful and will encourage other business communities to do likewise.

Thank you.                                                    

27 July 2007