Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Questions (171)

Jonathan O'Brien


172 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the details of any interdepartmental work co-ordinating crime prevention or offender rehabilitation initiatives and funding details of same. [4289/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

Crime prevention and reduction is a core part of the mission of An Garda Síochána. The Force attaches great importance working in co-operation with the community, those directly affected by crime and relevant Government Department and agencies. One example is the response of An Garda Síochána to an increase in the theft of metal, which involves targeting such crime, and burglaries and theft related crimes generally, through a number of initiatives based on collaborative effort and a targeted multi-agency response. An Garda Síochána has established a forum involving stakeholders particularly affected by this type of crime, including the Irish Farmers Association, the Electricity Supply Board, telecoms, transport companies, brewing concerns and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

There are dedicated Crime Prevention Officers (CPOs) within each Garda Division, who are trained to encourage, promote and advise on crime prevention both the private and business community. In addition, there are CPOs based at the National Crime Prevention Unit in Garda Headquarters. Because Garda activity in crime prevention and reduction is part of core Garda activity, it is funded from the Garda Vote and does not have a specific financial allocation.

At local level, inter-agency cooperation includes in particular the work of Joint Policing Committees, which are a forum to consult, discuss and make recommendations on policing matters arising in their area, including the prevention of crime. The Programme for Government makes a commitment to build on existing community policing partnerships and forums to enhance trust between local communities and their Gardaí. Accordingly, my Department has commenced a review of how the Committees have operated since their establishment, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the local authorities, to be followed by a broader consultation process, with the aim of seeing how their operation might be improved. My Department is in contact with local authorities in this regard, and work on the review is ongoing. Agencies represented on the Committees meet the costs arising from their involvement.

My Department, along with the HSE, has for many years supported the work of the Community Alert programme, which is a voluntary community-based initiative in rural communities, set up in 1985 by Muintir na Tíre in association with the Garda authorities and which attaches a high priority to crime prevention and improving the security of older and vulnerable persons in the community. In 2011 my Department provided funding of €160,000 to Community Alert.

Neighbourhood Watch is a crime prevention programme which aims to enlist the active cooperation of the community in a neighbourhood, usually urban, by observing and reporting suspicious activities to An Garda Síochána. Since its establishment, the Garda authorities have sought to encourage the active participation of the public in Neighbourhood Watch with the support of crime prevention officers and liaison Gardaí. Garda costs related to Neighbourhood Watch are funded from the Garda Vote and do not have a specific financial allocation.

Crimestoppers is a joint initiative between the Gardaí and the business community, which enables members of the public to report crime by calling a freephone number confidentially and anonymously. Organisations and businesses provide funding. My Department has also contributed funding to Crimestoppers, and future funding will be considered in the light of the available resources.

The Probation Service works closely with other agencies of the criminal justice system on offender rehabilitation. The Service also works in partnership with communities, local services and voluntary organisations to reduce offending and to make communities safer. In 2011 the Service, through my Department, provided in excess of €9.5 million in funding to 48 community organisations. The Probation Service is also represented on Local Drug Task Forces, Homeless Fora, the Parole Board, the Dublin Lord Mayor's Commission on Anti-Social Behaviour and other bodies.

In line with the recommendations in the report of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group, I am establishing a group to carry out an all encompassing strategic review of penal policy. That group will also look at the issue of support for reintegration and rehabilitation for prisoners.

The Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) works with the Health Service Executive on a number of inter-agency initiatives aimed at ensuring better outcomes for children in detention, including the area of rehabilitation. This work has been done on foot of the recommendations of the 2009 report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Ryan Commission).

The two agencies have worked together on the development of a HSE-led Assessment, Consultation and Therapy Service (ACTS) and Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service which would be available for children in care in HSE high support, special care and in detention in the Oberstown Children Detention Schools. It is currently expected that these initiatives will be in place by mid-2012, and they have been funded under the general allocation to the HSE for a range of child protection services on foot of the Ryan Commission report.

The two agencies have also worked together on the development of a draft Protocol for Working Together between the HSE social work system and the Children Detention Schools. This protocol will set down specific procedures and responsibilities for co-operation on the needs of children in detention who are also known to the HSE social work services. It is expected that this Protocol will be agreed and put in place during 2012. The draft protocol does not involve any additional funding requirements.

The IYJS and HSE have also worked together in the past six months on an Aftercare Implementation Group. The Group's remit includes the implementation of the HSE's leaving and aftercare services in relation to young people in the care of the HSE, who have served a sentence in the children detention schools. It is expected that the Group's report, which will include consideration of funding requirements, will be made available in the near future.

While generally other Departments do not have a direct role in the delivery of the crime prevention and reduction initiatives, such as the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and Garda Youth Diversion Projects, they can support them indirectly by the provision of services to children in the groups most at risk.

More generally, work is underway in my Department on the development of a White Paper on Crime, following an extensive consultation process with a broad range of Governmental and non-Governmental agencies and the public. It is intended that the White Paper will incorporate a framework National Anti-Crime Strategy, which will reflect and respond to issues raised during the consultation process, including issues relating to crime prevention and offender rehabilitation initiatives. The White Paper on Crime is expected to be completed this year.