Written Answers. - Crime Levels.

Joan Burton


62 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he intends to take to deal with the serious escalation in crime levels, and particularly the level of violent assaults, revealed in the Garda crime figures for 2001. [23699/02]

Bernard J. Durkan


211 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for a reduction in violent crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24036/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 211 together.

The statistics contained in the annual report of the Garda Síochána for the year 2001 in relation to "headline" or serious offences for the year 2001 are indeed disappointing. Although, in the period 1996 to 2000, the figures for recorded indictable crime showed a decrease of approximately 27%, the trend has, regrettably, altered in 2001 when Garda statistics indicated an overall increase of 18% over the previous year.

While these figures, especially in relation to violent assaults, are obviously a cause for concern, they also reflect the targeting of resources and the resultant increased activity on the part of the Garda in addressing this problem. This is confirmed by the detection rate of 75% in the assault category and 86% in the homicide category. I am convinced that this increase underlines the continued need for robust responses to offending behaviour and the need to readily adapt to changing levels and patterns of crime.

In addition to the current Garda powers in relation to public order, the Criminal Justice Public Order Bill, 2002, currently before the House, will give the Garda significant additional powers to assist them in dealing with drunkenness and disorderly conduct which most of us would accept are contributing to street crime and violent assaults. The purpose of the Bill is to augment the law so as to tackle the problem of drink-related late night disturbance and the growing problem of late night street violence which has its origins in or outside licensed premises and fast food outlets. It applies to pubs, off-licences, discos, nightclubs, dance venues of all types, amusement arcades, chip shops, take-aways and mobile food vehicles.

In addition, Garda operations which target such behaviour play a vital role in combating this type of crime. Operation Encounter is focused on all issues of public order occurring in the community. Particular attention is paid to nightclubs, fast food outlets and other venues at which large numbers of people congregate and where there is potential for disorder. The target hours of the operation are determined locally, based on the specific circumstances prevailing at each location. Particular attention is being paid to ensuring that the owners and managers of such premises are fully aware of their responsibilities and of the duty of care they owe to their patrons and other members of the public. Additional resources were made available and each regional commander was asked to draw up their own plans to prioritise the deployment of resources.
The Government will continue to focus on youth crime by supporting and developing evidence-based preventative measures and interventions aimed at young offenders and those most at risk of offending by implementing the outstanding relevant provisions of the Children Act, 2001. I am also committed to continuing to support and strengthen the network of Garda youth diversion projects which increased in number from 12 in 1997 to 64 at present. The continued enforcement of the provisions of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2000, relating to the mandatory temporary closure of pubs and off-licences where convictions for allowing underage drinking have been obtained is also a useful weapon in this issue. This has resulted in 118 closure orders against licence holders up to the end September 2002.
A major expansion of Garda CCTV systems is currently under way with systems to be installed in the following 17 areas – Athlone, Ballyfermot, Bray, Carlow, Castlebar, Clondalkin, Clonmel, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Ennis, Finglas, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo and Tallaght. The programme for Government also undertakes to grant aid local communities to provide CCTV systems. A grant-aid scheme has already been introduced and grant assistance of up to €100,000 is available from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. An Agreed Programme for Government provides for a further increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána of 2,000 to be targeted to benefit those areas of greatest need.