Adjournment Debate. - Crime Levels.

I welcome the opportunity to raise on the Adjournment the apparent ongoing incidents of unprovoked and random attacks, on young men in particular, on the streets and in the suburbs of Dublin. Will the Minister outline the most up-to-date information available on this phenomenon as it is important that we are clear on the scale of the problem? It may be the case that some attacks go unreported.

It appears common to hear stories of young people being attacked on their way home after a night out and the level of violence in some of these incidents is alarming. This week I was contacted by a parent whose son had been attacked on Rathmines Road. He was returning home from a night out with some friends but was unable to get a taxi and suffered a completely unprovoked attack in which his front teeth were knocked out. He had never seen his attackers before and had no conversation with them before the attack. I have heard of similar incidents in Temple Bar and other areas of Dublin. Another 16 year old boy was threatened with a needle in a DART station on his way home after the St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The stories go on. It appears that everyone has a story to tell about such incidents.

I am aware that in my constituency there was a decrease in muggings and handbag snatching some time ago. I believed at the time that the provision of drug treatment clinics was easing the problem, and this was to be welcomed. This phenomenon of attacks, predominantly on young men, appears to be increasing. These attacks are a source of concern and deserve attention. On the one hand I do not want to alarm young people and parents but on the other we must have safe streets in our city centre and suburbs. They should not become no-go areas, as has happened in other countries. Our young people should be safe in our major urban centres and suburbs and if this problem is emerging on a serious scale measures must be put in place to interrupt it before it gets out of control. There is a need for an integrated approach which includes co-ordination of video surveillance, increased night-time Garda patrols and the provision of more taxis and late night transport facilities.

The question must be asked whether these attacks are linked to more vulnerable, out-of-control, anti-social young people and adults not getting the service they need because of low numbers of probation and welfare officers and the lack of specialist units. The high availability and accessibility to drugs by young people in Dublin needs to be addressed in a proactive and co-ordinated way. There is evidence that adolescents in Dublin are engaging in higher levels of substance abuse than young people in other cities. These attacks may well be one of the consequences of this as well as alcohol abuse. Will the Minister report to the House on the matter? I thank him for being present to reply to the debate.

I share the Deputy's concern with any act of violence and agree that incidents of unprovoked attacks are particularly disturbing. While I am concerned with reports of such incidents, as the Deputy acknowledged, it would be wrong at this early stage to draw firm conclusions or make assumptions about trends. In this respect the Garda authorities have informed me that they are of the view that there is no evidence that any specific pattern of such attacks is emerging. It would be wrong, therefore, to give the impression that there is an epidemic of unprovoked attacks in Dublin. By their nature, such offences are sporadic and the circumstances surrounding each case can be unclear. It is, therefore, difficult to give a precise statistical picture of the problem. I will, however, outline what I know to be the facts of some recent cases.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that 27 unprovoked attacks on males, 25 years of age or younger, were recorded in the Dublin metropolitan region in the first three months of the year. I understand that nine of these attacks were recorded in the north central division, five of which have been detected. Files have been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions in respect of four of these cases and three persons have been charged with the fifth assault. The remaining four cases are under investigation.

In the southern division there were no reports of unprovoked attacks on young males.

In the DMR northern division, two cases were recorded. In both of these incidents, a single youth was attacked by a group of three males. Both matters are being investigated by the Garda.

Four cases were recorded in the DMR eastern division and files have been forwarded to the DPP for directions. In DMR west, investigations are continuing into the eight recorded attacks. Four cases were also recorded in Dublin south, all of which are currently under investigation.

Some of these crimes were very recent and the House will appreciate that it would neither be appropriate or helpful for me to go into very specific detail nor to speculate as to the motive behind them. Obviously, it is of paramount importance that nothing is said or done which could interfere with or prejudice the outcome of a Garda investigation into any of these crimes or any likely future prosecutions which may result from them.

Deputy Fitzgerald spoke yesterday on the Children Bill which is currently before the House. The debate on that Bill has given many Deputies the opportunity to ventilate their views on the area of juvenile justice, social exclusion and how the criminal justice system should deal with juvenile offenders. Moreover, many speakers also referred to the many new projects and imaginative measures which the Government has developed and is funding as part of the its agenda to tackle the root causes of crime. Allied to these measures, I remain wedded to my anti-crime programme which has yielded spectacular results since the Government came into office. Overall crime in the State is down by 21% over that period and I assure the House, at a time of record funding of the criminal justice system, there is no let up in our determination to keep our streets safe for the public.