Tuesday, 4 November 2014
Department of Justice and Equality
543. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the actions being taken to address the anti-social behaviour difficulties currently being experienced in Dublin city centre; her plans to provide more gardaí to address these difficulties; if she will provide in tabular form the number of gardaí stationed in Dublin city centre stations from 2009 to date in 2014; if she will provide the same information for the Dublin metropolitan area broken down by station; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41965/14]
I do of course appreciate the issues of concern which the Deputy has raised and would draw his attention to the Dublin City Centre Policing Plan which has been operational since June 2013. Garda actions under the Plan include dedicated high visibility patrols in key commercial and public thoroughfares. These patrols are informed by crime trends, demand studies and footfall in the areas in question. I am also aware that An Garda Síochána engages extensively with business and community interests in the city centre area with respect to crime prevention, enforcement and policing concerns.
The Garda approach includes focusing resources on specific areas of the city according to need.As part of this, a number of targeted city centre policing operations are in place.
These operations include Operation Pier, which concentrates on the South Quays and Temple Bar area. This operation includes the designation of certain areas as "hotspots" for anti-social behaviour and regular uniformed and plain clothes patrols. Other Garda Operations in the city centre include Operation Spire which is focused on the O’Connell Street and North Inner City areas, and Operation Stilts which is an ongoing overt policing operation targeting anti-social behaviour and drug-related crime in Dublin city centre locations.
Gardaí have increased their activity in targeting the supply of illegal drugs in the area, with increased numbers of drug seizures and searches. According to the provisional statistics from the Garda Síochána Analysis Service for the first nine months of the year, the total number of drug searches has increased by 5% in the North Central division and by 24% in the South Central division. I also wish to acknowledge the work of An Garda Síochána, including work with the entertainment and night-time sector, in seeking to address problems of disorder associated with the abuse of alcohol. Significant Garda resources are being deployed to support this effort, with a dedicated public order patrol van assigned to the city centre every Friday and Saturday night.
As a result of these efforts, the latest provisional statistics collated by the Garda Síochána Analysis Service for the first nine months of the year show a positive trend. Public order offences are down 7% in the South Central Garda division and down 19% in the North Central division.
We should not rely solely on statistics, but neither should we allow high-profile reports of individual incidents to cast our city in an unfairly negative light. What is most important is the first hand, day-to-day experiences of shoppers, visitors residents and workers, who should feel safe in the city centre at all hours. I acknowledge that challenges remain to be addressed but I am confident that the ongoing efforts of the Garda and others will make a positive difference.
I am conscious of the perspectives of business and community interests about the effects of certain types of crime and anti-social behaviour on the environment for business and leisure and on the overall quality of life for residents.Some of the problems faced are linked to disorder associated with abuse of alcohol and An Garda Síochána work closely with a wide range of businesses involved in the entertainment and night-time economy to address these issues so that people can enjoy themselves without concern for their welfare.
Other challenges have their origin in even more complex social phenomena which go well beyond the capacity of criminal justice agencies to address on their own. Dealing with these matters requires a coordinated approach from state agencies involved in social, housing, health and drug treatment services, as well as through partnership with business, community and voluntary groups. An Garda Síochána is already a long term partner in a range of local consultative and representative structures in Dublin and elsewhere. I am considering how we can step up this cooperation with a view to developing collaborative solutions to the range of issues which affect policing and the overall quality of the environment in our urban centres, and I intend to engage further with the Garda authorities in that regard.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the deployment of Garda personnel and Garda operations in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in Dublin city centre. From my discussions with the Garda authorities I am assured that Garda management in the Dublin Metropolitan Region keep this deployment under continuing review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, including with respect to concerns about public order and anti-social behaviour, so as to ensure that the best possible use is made of policing resources.
The Deputy will be aware that the first intake since 2009 of 100 new recruits entered training at the Garda College in Templemore on 15th September 2014. Furthermore, Budget 2015 provided for the recruitment of another 200 new Gardaí in the coming months. I am assured that when these additional personnel become available the needs of the DMR North and South Central will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda Divisions throughout the country. It is my intention that there will be ongoing recruitment and I am discussing the details of this with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following tables show the staffing complement in relation to the Dublin Metropolitan Division (DMR) North and South Central Divisions for the years 2009 to 2013 and in 2014, up to 31 August.
DMR North Central
(up to 31 August)
|Fitzgibbon St /Mountjoy*||193||197||207|
*Merged for building works
DMR South Central
(up to 31 August)
*Closed in 2012
In addition, to the ongoing recommenced recruitment, I am currently progressing measures to civilianise certain immigration functions with a view to freeing up Gardaí for front-line policing duties.