I thank the Deputies for their contributions. I agree with them. This is an urgent issue that relates to social policy and health policy, as well as to security and criminal justice. It is intended to review the implementation of the national drugs strategy at the next Cabinet sub-committee meeting on social policy.
Reference was made to the Building Community Resilience report by Dr. Johnny Connolly. I welcomed the publication of this report. Dr. Connolly was a member of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, CoFPI. His report feeds directly into initiatives already under way across Government as we implement that report. His report explicitly situated its recommendations in the context of the developments within the community safety network that were at the heart of the commission's recommendations. Deputies support the commission's view that community safety, community policing and Garda visibility are of paramount importance. I was pleased Dr. Connolly spoke of the importance of the policing and community safety Bill that is being drafted, as well as of the new Garda operating model that is being phased in. Work on these initiatives is advancing well.
I am particularly concerned about children being lured into criminality at a young age. The Greentown study is contributing to the development of policy and practice in this area. In this regard, I highlight the ongoing work of the innovative the joint agency response to crime, JARC, programme, which aims to develop and strengthen a multi-agency approach to the management of prolific offenders, prioritise such offenders for targeted interventions and tackle their behaviour. In this way, we will reduce crime and victimisation in communities. As Dr. Connolly pointed out in the Building Community Resilience report, an initial report into the effectiveness of this programme has shown it is promising and can be an effective approach for such offenders. It is essential to recognise that only a small proportion, as few as 1%, of residents in the communities in question are involved in criminal activity. As the report rightly points out, we should not unfairly stigmatise those communities as a whole as the majority of people in them are hard-working, law-abiding citizens. Only a small minority are involved in crime or organised crime.
On the actions we are taking to deal with drug gangs across the country, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, GNDOCB, leads in tackling all forms of drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs. The bureau continues to have significant success in tackling these issues. While it was only established in March 2015, it has already seized controlled substances worth almost €167 million, €10 million in cash believed to be the proceeds of crime, 108 firearms and over 3,000 rounds of ammunition. To date in 2019, the GNDOCB has been responsible for the seizure of controlled substances to the value of €20 million, €2.4 million in cash believed to be the proceeds of crime and 17 firearms. A large number of seizures and arrests have been made in recent weeks and months. Some of the recent successes in this area have included the seizure of approximately €100,000 worth of suspected cannabis in Roscommon and the arrest of two people and the seizure of €100,000 worth of cannabis and cocaine and €2,250 cash in Tipperary. There was a seizure by the Garda, as part of an intelligence-led operation, of €400,000 worth of cannabis herb, cocaine and diamorphine in Ballymun and Santry on 16 November. There have been significant seizures in Drogheda. In Ballymascanlon, County Louth, a haulage vehicle in which cannabis herb valued at over €3 million was being transported was seized. There was a seizure in Ballyfermot and Park West of €3.5 million in cocaine and diamorphine.
Regarding Europol’s 2019 drugs market report, the Government’s policy on drug and alcohol misuse is set out in the national drugs strategy. The latter represents a whole-of-Government response to the problem of drug and alcohol use, adopting a balanced health-led approach aiming to reduce demand as well as access to illegal drugs. While we seek to help to treat people who use drugs consistent with that strategy, the Garda will continue to be relentless in pursuing those involved in the sale, distribution and supply of drugs. Targeting the supply of lesser drugs is a priority for An Garda Síochána. As recently as 27 November, the Garda Commissioner, the Minister and the assistant commissioner for special crime operations were briefed on the energetic approach being taken by the Garda. The GNDOCB leads in tackling all forms of drug trafficking. As already stated, the bureau has had significant success since its establishment in 2015.
Deputy Micheál Martin referred to Deputy Curran’s Bill on stopping criminal gangs from grooming children. The Government very much appreciates Deputy Curran's work in this regard. As mentioned by the Minister for Justice and Equality last summer, the Department of Justice and Equality is already working on the matter. Officials are closely monitoring the findings of the University of Limerick's Greentown study. The Department of Justice and Equality provided a preliminary analysis of Deputy Curran’s Bill which highlighted some significant legal, policy and operational difficulties, including the possibility of inadvertently criminalising children. However, the Government sees merits in the proposals it contains. The Minister will engage with Deputy Curran to ensure that these difficulties can be ironed out in order to allow the Bill to progress to Committee Stage. In the meantime, the Department will continue to consider the most appropriate approach to counteract the grooming of children for criminal activity. Any solution will need to be developed with the utmost care and co-operation with the Garda, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Departments of Health and Children and Youth Affairs.