Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 150 - Drug dealing [8537/22].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 150 - Drug dealing [8537/22]. (17 Feb 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2022...

150. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice the way that the new policy approach for areas of severe disadvantage which are suffering the ravages of drug dealing has been progressing to date; the indicators being used to establish the success of the approach; if there are any early findings; and the further initiatives that are planned in her Department or across Government to tackle some of the deep-seated challenges. [8537/22] 

Helen McEntee, Minister for Justice: I can assure the Deputy that the Government is determined to tackle anti-social and criminal behaviour. I am very conscious of the repercussions that such behaviour can have on the quality of life for residents in local communities. It is important that people feel safe and are safe in their communities. 

There are a number of policy approaches ongoing, including the Local Community Safety Partnerships, the Youth Justice Strategy, the Greentown pilot programme, the Drogheda Implementation Plan and the socio-economic and community plan for Darndale and the surrounding areas in Dublin 17. 

The Deputy will be aware that my Department published the general scheme of the landmark Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill last year. The Bill will provide for a key principle from the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, namely that preventing crime and harm and making our communities safer does not rest with An Garda Síochána and my Department alone. Rather, it will be best achieved as a whole-of-government responsibility, with Departments and agencies responsible for health and social services, education authorities and local authorities, the Gardaí and the wider community working together. 

The new Bill will achieve this by establishing innovative Local Community Safety Partnerships (LCSPs) to develop local safety plans, tailored to the priorities and needs identified by communities themselves. The LCSPs will replace and build upon the existing Joint Policing Committees and will provide a forum for State agencies and local community representatives to work together to act on community concerns. 

Each Partnership will devise and oversee a Local Community Safety Plan, which will be informed by the community itself. Membership of the Partnerships will be broader than that of the existing JPCs and will include residents, community representatives (including youth, new communities and voluntary sector representation), business and education sector representation, relevant public services including the HSE, Tusla, An Garda Síochána, and local authorities as well as local councillors. 

The Deputy will be aware that in November 2020, I announced the establishment of three Local Community Safety Partnerships on a pilot basis in the north inner city of Dublin, Waterford and Longford. The locations of the pilots, which will run for 24 months, were chosen based on a number of factors including population density, crime rates and deprivation. An independent Chairperson has been appointed to chair each Partnership pilot. 

Each pilot area, in line with the commitments given at the outset, is participating in a robust evaluation process which will last for the 24 month duration of the pilot. The overall aim of the evaluation is to provide actionable evidence to help inform the development of the LCSPs and their rollout across the country on completion of the pilot period, after the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill is enacted. The evaluation is exploring implementation approaches and processes that appear to be effective across and within the pilot communities. It will, over time, assess how well the Local Community Safety Partnership pilots identified the priorities and concerns of their communities; how the LCSPs conducted their work; the engagement and relationships the LCSPs had with the local communities; and the impact of the LCSP work on community safety. Findings from the evaluation process will inform future rollout of the LCSP model in every local authority area. 

The role of the LCSPs seeks to build on the good work done by Joint Policing Committee, but through an evolution and expansion of that structure. The LCSP will bring a broader focus to community safety issues, of which policing is but one factor, to enable communities to be safe and feel safe. 

In addition, as the Deputy may be aware, Budget 2022 provides for the establishment of the new Community Safety Innovation Fund. It is intended that this fund will support investment in innovative projects which will improve community safety. The fund, which is expected to grow in the coming years, will have an initial outlay in 2022 of €2m. A call for funding proposals will issue shortly seeking applications for community safety projects and similar initiatives from bodies involved in community safety, including the Local Community Safety Partnerships. 

The Deputy will also be aware that my Department published the Youth Justice Strategy 2021-27 last year. The Strategy provides a national developmental framework to pursue more effective engagement, collaboration and community support related to youth offending and the factors underlying it. Important priorities include the development of Youth Diversion Projects (YDPs), which are directly funded by my Department, to include targeted work with ‘harder-to-reach’ young people. This includes young people heavily involved in crime and anti-social behaviour, for whom there is a lack of appropriate supports and interventions in practice, unless they are before the courts, in which case they may be under the supervision of the Probation Service. The Strategy also prioritises early intervention work, including with younger children who are assessed as being at serious risk. Both these cohorts may include children at risk of recruitment by crime gangs. 

Implementation of the Strategy began with the establishment of a cross-agency Governance and Strategy Group, and a Youth Justice Oversight Group. Both groups are chaired by my Department, which will provide oversight arrangements for Youth Justice Initiatives, including the Greentown pilots, to support a more cohesive response in practice to the needs of particular cohorts of children and particular communities. The implementation of the Youth Justice Strategy is also supported by a Youth Justice Advisory Group, chaired by Minister Browne, which reflects the opinions and experience of a wide range of community and expert stakeholders to assist in the ongoing development of youth justice policies and programmes. 

The Greentown pilot programme represents an import deliverable under the Youth Justice Strategy. This internationally recognised initiative is being led by the REPPP Project, (Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice), at the School of Law in the University of Limerick (UL).  The REPPP project is a strategic research partnership between UL and my Department. The REPPP originally produced the “Greentown Report”, which studied the influence of criminal networks on children in Ireland, and was published in December 2016. 

The Greentown Report identifies crime networks as a separate and plausible risk factor underlying criminal offending by certain children. It outlines how the influence of criminal networks increases the level of offending by a small number of children and entraps them in offending situations. 

The Greentown Report recommended the design of a programme to include interventions with children and their families to help them withstand the influence of criminal networks. The REPPP project team implemented a bespoke design process to produce a model for an Irish evidence-informed intervention programme. This new Greentown Programme has been designed with the input of leading international expertise on crime and criminal networks, together with Irish scientific, policy and practice expertise in child protection and welfare, drugs and community development. 

Pilot applications of the Greentown Programme, developed by the REPPP, commenced in two locations in 2020 and will run for three years. The learning from these pilots will then be incorporated into mainstream YDP practice. This specially designed intervention programme was developed with international expert advice, to tackle coercive control of children by criminal groups which entraps them in offending situations. Funds are already available for the initial pilots from the Dormant Accounts Funds, with a total of €4.2m allocated over three years. 

Regarding the Drogheda Implementation Plan, the Deputy will be aware the publication and implementation of the recommendations of the Drogheda scoping report were key actions in my Department's Justice Plan 2021. 

I am grateful to the former Director of the Probation Service, Mr. Vivian Geiran, who made over 70 recommendations in his scoping report on short and long term responses to challenges the community faces in Drogheda. This includes measures around crime prevention, youth services, drug addiction, education, infrastructure and community development. The recommendations highlight the need for improved interagency cooperation in the administration and delivery of State services in Drogheda, as well as the need to resource public services or provide additional services in certain areas in particular. 

In July 2021, I obtained Government approval for an Implementation Plan for Drogheda. I also secured commitment from across Government that, given the manifest needs, there will be a special focus on Drogheda including, where necessary, Departments and State agencies prioritising funding applications for projects in Drogheda related to the Drogheda Implementation Plan. 

The Implementation Plan identifies the relevant stakeholders for each recommendation and outlines the next steps for engagement and delivery. I intend that the Plan will be a living document and thus reviewed by my Department each quarter, with progress reports produced twice yearly. This will allow for ongoing engagement and consultation. 

I also welcome the recent report which has set out a socio-economic and community plan for Darndale and the surrounding areas in Dublin 17. Under Justice Plan 2021, my Department committed to supporting and working with Dublin City Council (DCC) to ensure the implementation of the report on Darndale, Belcamp and Moatview. 

As the Deputy is aware, DCC commissioned this report in response to the escalating levels of violence in these areas of north Dublin in 2019 and 2020. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the area’s assets, services, and significant levels of State supports as well as its inherent challenges. 

The Darndale Implementation Oversight Group (DIOG) was established in February 2021 and is meeting on a monthly basis, chaired by former Assistant Garda Commissioner Jack Nolan. The importance which is being placed on the implementation of the report by An Garda Síochána is demonstrated by the presence of the local Chief Superintendent, Superintendent and Inspector, all of whom sit on the group. 

While many of the report's recommendations relate to issues such as youth services, drugs services, the physical environment and community services and facilities, I am informed that implementation of the Garda actions is well underway, including the Community Hub proposal. 

As well as important recommendations related to crime prevention and dismantling gangs, two key recommendations include the need to strengthen community participation and leadership, and the need for more collaboration in relation to delivery of state services. This closely aligns to work by my Department to develop a new community safety policy in line with the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

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