I want to raise the question also of whether this Bill is suitable to tackle the terrible drugs situation here. I do not need to recount the statistics on that subject. Suffice it to say, from my research, one in ten teenagers in this country is now playing with heroin. That is a frightening figure. It is a hidden, sinister crime and one that is difficult to handle. I wonder will this Bill do anything in that regard because, if somebody is accused, found guilty and sentenced to X hours of community work, how do we know that the other X hours of their time will not be spent continuing their trade in drug trafficking? There is no way it can be supervised to that extent.
While this Bill will be helpful in other areas I suggest it will be most unhelpful in that area of the fastest growing crime — as I said before — now the fastest growing business with the greatest turnover of any company in Dublin city today. I do not think the provisions of this Bill will do anything in that regard. I would ask that some alteration be made in its provisions to allow for the handling of that drugs situation — perhaps extra supervision, perhaps extra reporting, some other area of greater or more intensive supervision if it happens to be a drugs offence. I do not think the ordinary supervision will suffice.
The whole area of law enforcement and of crime in Ireland today is one on which we could hold up this House for many years if we got into it. I do not intend to do that today. But I want to say this, that the suburbs of this city today are terrorised at the extent of crime in the city. That takes me back to my opening point, that it is not just more laws, more gardaí and so on that are required, it is imagination. I ask the Government, the Minister and the officials advising these people to bring a little imagination to bear on old problems. To an extent that is what politics is about, tackling old problems in a fresh way. That is what leadership is about, bringing fresh minds and approaches to old problems and my God, crime is the oldest problem we have. I am asking the Minister and his officials to bring some fresh thinking to it, for example, such as the idea of trying to establish a police point in every substantial suburb. There are whole suburbs, such as Dundrum, Rathfarnham, right across the board, each the size of an Irish town. For example, Rathfarnham is almost the size of Galway city. Take Dundrum and a few more places thrown in and one has an area the size of Cork city. Tallaght has up to 90,000 people with one Garda station, and so on. The kind of imagination for which I am asking is that perhaps those areas could be broken down into communities, with a community police point whether it be only a telephone number, a letter-box, a sentry or even a local post office but, whatever it be, it would constitute a fresh idea and establish a police point. The greatest difficulty of which I have been told in dealing with crime in my constituency is that when people want to contact the Garda, particularly when in difficulty, they discover there is no local spot to do that, that they must contact the rather remote Garda stations that service the fast growing surburban population.
What I am asking for is a community policing system. I do not believe it would take any more money or an enormous number of extra men. It requires just a little imagination to use our existing resources a little better. Dublin city has become enormously impersonal. Most of its estates would be the size of an ordinary Irish town, be that Portumna or whatever. There are estates the size of those towns. But the difference is that those towns such as Portumna, Mullingar or whatever, have their own Garda station, their own police protection, their town hall, their civic services and their sense of identity. But that is not available in Dublin, suburban Dublin particularly at present, in the huge concrete jungles that have grown up. It is no problem now to build 2,000 houses. Just put a name on it and walk away from it. But there will be no town hall in these areas, no social services, no sense of identity there. Of course there will be very serious crime in an area like that. Therefore, let us try to get Dublin back to a more communitybased type of society. Let us pick a place like Rathfarnham, let us turn that into a community with its own police point. If it cannot afford a police station perhaps the post office could be used. Let us bring some imagination to bear on it.
For example, in my constituency there are 106,000 people, 30,000 of whom are youngsters in the sense that they are under 18. There are two resident Garda stations in that constituency; I know there are some over-flows dealing with edges of it. That is not the kind of community policing and connection with the public I want our gardaí to have. I am suggesting, therefore, a community policing type of operation particularly in our suburbs, the idea that we establish a police point in large housing estates, be it just a telephone, post office or whatever.
I notice in the Garda Report for 1981 that there are 52 crimes committed per thousand of population. It is significant to note that, while the overall detection rate is 37 per cent, there is an 87 per cent detection rate in offences against the person, meaning that in serious crime our Garda do a far better job than they are given credit for. But bring it down to less serious crime, the day-to-day crime, the stealing of the video, of the television set, the kitchen furniture, whatever, there the detection rate is something of the order of slightly over 30 per cent. Therefore we can see that our gardaí, when they get their teeth into the more serious crime, are able to handle it. In that regard also I might talk of imagination. When one looks at those statistics one sees that the major area of crime that goes undetected is that of the casual larceny and break-in and so on, the not so serious beatings as opposed to serious beatings. In that regard, considering that one young person in four is now unemployed, why do we not bring some imagination to bear on that problem, perhaps by introducing some type of police warden instead of the fully-fledged official garda? The House might recoil in shock and think of all the union problems, of second-class Garda — they are problems that will be thought of — but think of the opportunities as well as the problems. We have a litter problem in this city with which the Garda had to deal at one stage. Now what happens? We have got litter wardens to deal with it. Nobody is causing any trouble about that. We used to have the Garda dealing with all the traffic problems of this country; they were bogged down with traffic problems. Then what happened? We had traffic wardens and nobody saw any great difficulty in doing that. We had a particular drugs problem and we instituted the Drugs Squad. Considering the figures I have put before the House today and the enormous amount of petty crime that is around, why not look at the idea of establishing petty crime wardens to take the burden off the Garda, to patrol the areas in which there is known to be a high incidence of petty crime?
Do we need to have fully-fledged gardaí chasing people who have stolen videos from somewhere in Mount Merrion or who have kicked in someone's door or taken a tyre from a car, gardaí whose energy and resources are limited and needed in the pursuit of serious crime? I suggest not. Between them the 4,941 gardaí in the Dublin metropolitan area in 1982 clocked up 1.3 million hours in overtime and that was a reduction on the figure for the previous year. In terms of the level of public expenditure I cannot object to the cutback since I am one of those who has called constantly for control of public expenditure, but I suggest that most of the Garda overtime to which I have referred was spent in the area of the detection of petty crime.
I am asking the Minister and the Department to bring some imagination to bear on this problem and to consider the suggestion I am making. At the time of the proposal to introduce traffic wardens objections were raised from various people alleging that such a move would undermine the Garda, would adversely affect Garda careers and so on, but we have traffic wardens and they are doing an excellent job. I know this because I get tickets from them regularly.
I see no reason for our not having petty crime wardens, too. Perhaps the idea needs to be thrashed out a little more but I would ask the Government to consider the practicality of it. It is not as farfetched an idea as it might seem. There is no point in each of us coming here and talking about the increasing crime rate or telling about the old ladies who are beaten up and so on. Somebody must suggest a way out of the difficulty. We are all against crime, but someone must do something about it. If the Minister is of the opinion that the suggestion I am putting forward would not be feasible, I should like him to tell us why he holds that opinion. However, as a minimum I would ask him to give the suggestion serious consideration. Perhaps I will ask him more formally about it later by way of parliamentary question.
There is an item in the Bill which suggests that the prisoner, for want of a better word, has an option in regard to undertaking community work. I wonder if that will result in any good. If there is to be a choice involved in this area of law in terms of offences, are we not opening up the whole area of law and of offences and of sentencing? If a charged person is to be requested to undertake community work it may amount to offering him a choice as between the scenery in Mountjoy and in the Limerick area. I am not sure that this is a good principle, but in the absence of the bevy of legal talent on the other side I shall have to wait for the Minister to reply on that point.
As Deputy Kelly mentioned, the Bill provides for a minimum of 40 hours work or a maximum of 240 hours work per annum. On the basis of a 40-hour week, 240 hours represents six weeks work in a year and that is the maximum sentence. I wonder if by that provision we are allowing for a fair opportunity to determine whether the Bill will work. Is this not too marginal, too mickey-mouse almost? It is not really allowing the courts to breathe. In his speech the Minister said he picked these figures out of the sky, as it were. Deputy Kelly said they were taken from the British Act; but regardless of where they came from the Minister indicated that he had no hard and fast ideas about them. I suggest that a total of six weeks work per annum is not going far enough. If we are to try this approach let us do so properly and give the courts some flexibility instead of tying their hands too tightly.
I wish to remind the House and the people, and more particularly the Judiciary of a Dáil debate that took place here some time ago concerning the sentencing policy of our courts. I do not wish to dwell on this matter. The Ceann Comhairle asked a previous speaker not to intervene too much in this area. Suffice it for me to say that the spirit of the motion in question was that our sentencing policy should be more consistent. I suggest that our Judiciary pay heed to that debate and pay heed to the wishes of the Dáil in regard to bringing more consistency into the sentencing policy. They should read between the lines instead of having the wishes of the House spelled out in too much detail for them.
The success or failure of crime, particularly of serious crime, depends to a large extent on the operations of the Garda. In that regard we must give the Garda the modern equipment, the back-up and the services they need. I am aware that I am delving into a controversial area in saying that the Garda, particularly at the top level, need the maximum flexibility in dealing with serious crime.
In regard to the kidnapping case that has come into the news recently I would find it difficult to criticise former Commissioner Garvey for the way he acted in that instance. To an extent he was involved in a war with criminals and it is said that all is fair in love and war. We must not have the hands of our top Garda officers tied totally in dealing with unscrupulous people. They must have some flexibility.
The principle in this Bill suggests that there is unpaid work for offenders, that there is work to be done and that the courts will determine if that work is to be done by offenders. About three weeks ago the Taoiseach suggested that perhaps a scheme be made available involving unpaid work for our unemployed. I notice that the Minister has got trade union agreement in respect of this Bill; but, if we could organise our affairs so as to make work available on an unpaid basis, why not do so? We would not have to discontinue payments to people on the unemployed list who would participate in such work. We could pay them the equivalent approximately of what they were getting by way of the dole.
To summarise, I have called for more imagination in our system and I have put forward a number of ideas which I am asking the Minister to consider.