Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 60 - Crime prevention [24744/11]

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 60 - Crime prevention [24744/11]. (20 Sep 2011)

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60. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to ensure a more focused multi agency approach to tackling mid level drug dealers at a localised level throughout the State involving the Gardaí, the Criminal Assets Bureau, local authorities, all relevant State agencies and with community input; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24744/11]  

Deputy Alan Shatter: Tackling serious crime, including drug trafficking, remains a key priority both for the Government and for the Garda Síochána. These priorities are clearly reflected in the Garda policing plan for 2011. A key action in the plan is the proactive targeting by the Garda Síochána of drug trafficking, including low level drug dealing.


Under the direction of the Assistant Commissioner at An Garda Síochána’s national support services, the Garda national drugs unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau are pursuing their respective remits. A strategic partnership has been established between the Garda national drugs unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau in identifying common targets who are then pursued through intelligence-led investigations, in order to maximise the response of law enforcement to organised crime gangs. In tandem with this, the asset profilers programme has now been rolled out nationwide, with asset profilers based in every Garda division. These profilers play a key role in tackling those involved in mid-level drug dealing. The Criminal Assets Bureau utilises the local knowledge supplied by the profilers to target the assets of well known drug dealers in local communities.


The National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 puts in place a co-ordinated approach across the many Departments and agencies that hold a remit in this area, working with the community and voluntary sectors. Under our institutional arrangements, the implementation of the strategy is monitored by the oversight forum on drugs. This forum, which is chaired by the Minister of State at the Department of Health, is made up of representatives of both State and non-governmental bodies, reflecting the ongoing multi-agency and multi-sectoral approach in tackling this issue.


At local level, local and regional drug task forces also bring together representatives from these bodies, including the local authorities, to work with local community and public representatives and so help deliver a better co-ordinated response to the problem as it is experienced in local areas. In addition, the joint policing committee initiative brings together members of the Oireachtas, elected members and officials of local authorities, officers of An Garda Síochána and representatives of the community and voluntary sectors. This further enables a collaborative approach to be taken in tackling the problem of drug misuse at local authority level. Related to this, work is also continuing on the roll out of local policing fora to all local drug task force areas.


Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: With the proposed reduction in numbers, this brings into focus the role of the community in tackling drug addiction, drug abuse and drug dealing. The Minister touched on it when he spoke about the role of the joint policing committees and the local policing forums. They certainly have the capacity to contribute to a solution, but I think we need to look at their current role and maybe give them some additional powers, tweaking the way they operate. From my experience at these committees and forums in my own area, there is certainly room for improvement in order to ensure that there is a greater community participation in those structures. Has the Minister any proposals to look at their role and will he give them additional powers?


Deputy Alan Shatter: I will certainly give consideration to what the Deputy is saying. The Garda Síochána has been very successful in targeting drug gangs and drug criminals in recent months, and in intercepting very substantial amounts of drugs. As I have the opportunity to do so, I would like to congratulate the Garda on a haul of cannabis yesterday evening with an approximate value of €1.7 million. It is very important that the Garda targets those at the highest level who are engaged in drug dealing and who are preying on young people. They would have my absolute support in doing that, as long as we can enhance co-operation between local communities and the Garda, or enhance the interaction at local authority level between councils on the ground and members of the Garda.


From feedback I have received, some policing committees are working better than others, depending on the local authority. Some more work needs to be done on that, and I will give it until the end of the year. At that stage I intend to communicate with local authorities to get some overall national feedback on the number of times per year committees are meeting, and the nature of the engagement that is taking place to ensure that it is constructive and beneficial to the community and to the Garda. The committees must also be responsive in the sense that when local representatives are able to focus on a particular problem in their area, there is an appropriate response, where possible, to address it.


Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: I welcome the commitment given by the Minister. It is important to review how the committees are working because, as the Minister stated, in some areas they are working better than in others. Will the Minister give a commitment that the so-called dial to stop drug dealing hotline will be funded throughout next year?


Deputy Dara Calleary: I agree with the Minister on the Garda drug find. Considerable work is being done in this regard at local level. I welcome, in particular, the use of asset profiling. Is the Minister satisfied that legislation to assist the Garda in following up on this type of work is sufficiently strong and favours the Garda rather than those who are being profiled?


Deputy Alan Shatter: I will quickly answer both questions. While I regard the hotline to which Deputy O’Brien refers as very important, I have great difficulty at the moment committing funding for anything for next year because were I to do so and having agreed to make a commitment on this issue, the next question I would be asked would be why I would not agree to commit to something else. Deputy O’Brien can be assured that I am very conscious of the hotline’s importance.


On Deputy Calleary’s question, I have previously stated that we are reviewing the legislation on the Criminal Assets Bureau to see if there is some tweaking or are some changes that could usefully be made to it that would assist generally in the work that is done and would be of particular relevance to the activity of drug trading and the criminal gangs engaged in it. If we bring forward amending legislation, I do not expect we will be in a position to do so until early next year. I am certainly conscious of this area.

Other Questions - Crime Prevention
Vol. 740 No. 3
Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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