Thursday, 16 May 2019

Ceisteanna (12)

Bernard Durkan


12. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which he continues to combat organised crime, with particular reference to gangland activity and the induction of teenagers into a criminal lifestyle by crime warlords; the extent to which further resources are required in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21144/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Justice)

This question seeks to ascertain the extent to which the chain of events in the criminal world can be interrupted with a view to preventing young people becoming involved in a life of crime.

From changes of time to gangland crime - such is the breadth of responsibility of the Department of Justice and Equality.

I assure the Deputy that tackling organised crime and those involved in it is an ongoing priority for the Government and An Garda Síochána. Multi-disciplinary approaches are used by An Garda Síochána to ensure the activities of individuals and groups involved in criminality are effectively targeted. Such approaches include the use of money-laundering legislation and focused intelligence-led operations by Garda specialist units, including the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the National Economic Crime Bureau and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations with support as required from the security and intelligence section and close co-operation with the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The necessary resources continue to be made available to address this issue. A total budget of €1.76 billion has been provided to An Garda Síochána in 2019, an increase of over €100 million on the 2018 allocation.

Garda operational responses to gangland-related crime in Dublin are co-ordinated under Operation Hybrid. As of 13 January 2019, there were 86 arrests related to gang-related killings and three persons convicted of murder had consequent life sentences imposed. In addition, 290 searches have been undertaken, 37 firearms have been seized and over 17,000 lines of inquiry conducted. More than 76,000 high visibility checkpoints had been implemented up to 4 May, with significant support from armed support units. A large amount of CCTV footage, mobile phone traffic and forensic evidence is being examined. Operation Hybrid is reviewed on a weekly basis to maintain optimal impact on this important issue.

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply. Are specific measures being taken or about to be taken to discourage young people from seeing a life of crime as an attractive option? To what extent can the chain of command in the use of teenagers in particular as mules for drug barons be infiltrated with a view to prevention and the use of rehabilitative and educational measures within the Prison Service?

The Deputy raises an important point. I acknowledge the importance of the Garda youth diversion projects. With specific reference to youth involvement in gangland activity, my Department funded research in the form of the Greentown report undertaken at the University of Limerick. This research outlines how the influence of criminal networks increases the level of offending by a small number of children and entraps them in offending situations, including the distribution and carrying of drugs and, often, the carrying of firearms. A new Greentown programme has been designed with the input of leading Irish and international experts on crime and criminal networks, taking into account child protection and welfare, drugs and community development. It is due to commence on a pilot basis this year.

To what extent will monitoring continue to identify the most satisfactory methods of dealing with that situation with a view to achieving some degree of cut-off to prevent the practice of gang warlords encouraging young people into their nets?

I highlight the importance of engaging in international best practice and informing ourselves as to occurrences or practice in other jurisdictions. I referred to specific research in that regard. I acknowledge the importance of the Garda youth diversion projects which have been operating for many years. They play a very important role in assisting vulnerable children to make more pro-social life choices. These projects, administered by my Department, have been progressively developed and expanded through the years. This year, there are more than 100 such projects nationwide. They are community-based multi-agency crime prevention initiatives and work closely with An Garda Síochána and other stakeholders. They primarily seek to divert young people who have become involved in crime or anti-social behaviour. The aim of the projects is to bring about the conditions whereby the behavioural patterns of young people towards law and order can develop and mature through positive interventions.