Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 21 October, 1997

Written Answers. - Crime Prevention.

21. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the nature and origins of crime in view of recent comments [1367] made by the Garda Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17079/97]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): The commissioner correctly emphasised that policing solutions alone will not solve the crime problem. There is a need to identify features of our society which may contribute to crime and to reach agreement on how best to deal with them. It is important, also, that the community itself is involved, in co-operation with the Garda Síochána, in reducing crime levels.

The Minister wishes to state that many of these points were highlighted in a discussion document Tackling Crime which was published last May by my Department. As the Minister has already announced he intends to set up a crime forum which will canvass comment, assessments and suggestions on crime and crime-related issues from the general community and from both national and international experts.

The proceedings of the forum will also assist in the further development of criminal justice policy and, in particular, will help clarify the issues which will need to be addressed in the forthcoming White Paper on Crime. The Minister expects the forum will also provide ideas on how best to structure the community based crime council which he intends to establish.

In the meantime, of course, extensive action is being taken on a number of fronts. The Government is pursuing a range of measures to tackle social exclusion. Some £10 million is being made available through the national drugs strategy team to fund projects identified by the 13 local drugs task forces as priorities in each of their areas. The initial allocation from this fund has recently been approved by Government and the Minister expects to see the benefits come on line in the near future. The allocation of the balance of the fund is now being addressed.

There are also currently 12 special projects run by the Garda Síochána which are aimed at diverting at-risk juveniles away from crime. These projects are crime preventive in nature and have been introduced successfully in a number of areas throughout the country. There are, in addition, other developmental projects or initiatives in deprived areas either run or funded by the Departments of Education and Science, Social, Community and Family Affairs, and the health boards. In July of this year, the Government established the interdepartmental policy group on local development to develop a comprehensive Government strategy on local development and to focus on improving the quality of life of communities characterised by high levels of unemployment.

Having said all that, the Minister thinks it important also to make the point that deficiencies within society can never excuse crime and that there are many who would engage in crime as a career, regardless of societal influences. In regard to these there should be no misunderstanding.

[1368] The Government is proceeding with a range of initiatives to frustrate career criminals. The Minister need hardly say that the commissioner fully endorses these initiatives. As the Deputy may be aware, Ireland has among the lowest crime levels of any developed country and this Government is committed to lowering that level even further.