I am very conscious that anti-social behaviour causes great distress and the Programme for Government underscores our commitment to address this problem. Despite understandable public concern over recent incidents, it is important that the good work carried out by An Garda Síochána is recognised. The latest figures published by the CSO show that in the year to 31 March 2012 there was a reduction of over 8% in assault and related cases and over 14% in public order offences. Indeed, most categories of recorded crime fell in the period.
I share the Deputy's concern about the use of physical violence, including some extremely serious and disturbing incidents on the streets of Dublin in recent times. I am, of course, in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner regarding these matters and these contacts will continue.
It is clear that excessive drinking as well as drug use can fuel violence and it is essential that everything possible is done to prevent such incidents happening on our streets.
An Garda Síochána are using the strong legal powers available to them under the Public Order Acts and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts to keep our streets as safe as possible, including prosecutions where appropriate. These provisions deal with street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking and Garda powers include the seizure of alcohol to prevent underage drinking in public places and to forestall public disorder or damage to property. Gardaí may also issue fixed charge notices for the offences of intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct in a public place. These are a more efficient use of Garda resources and avoid court proceedings when an offender pays the penalty.
Garda resources are deployed where experience and analysis shows they are most needed. New Garda rostering arrangements have been introduced in recent weeks. As a result of these new arrangements, Gardaí can be on duty at the times of the day when they are most needed. This is particularly important in dealing with public order issues as it is generally on certain nights of the week and between certain hours that there is the greatest need for Garda patrols.
Dealing with anti-social behaviour is not simply about policing and I intend, in the coming months, to put in place new regulations to prohibit the below-cost selling of alcohol and also alcohol promotions which encourage excessive drinking.
Since my appointment as Minister, I have been doing everything possible to support the Gardaí in their work. While it is true that no area can be exempt from our current economic difficulties, huge resources are still made available to policing. The Garda Commissioner has been concentrating, with my full support, on making sure he is in a position to deploy the very dedicated men and women of An Garda Síochána as effectively as possible. The Commissioner is also very aware that I will give full consideration to any proposals for changes in the law which would help the Gardaí do their job better and more effectively.