Monday, 9 November 2015

Rural Crime Initiatives Update from Muintir na Tire

During October Muintir na Tíre met with the Garda Commissioner and her senior management for an open and frank discussion on the issue of rural crime. This included the many matters being raised by Community Alert groups around the country. We were promised immediate action which materialised initially in the form of Operation Thor this week. On Wednesday we met the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Justice. 
In his opening statement, CEO Niall Garvey explained that Muintir has run the Community Alert programme, in partnership with the Garda Síochána, for 30 years. It has been very successful and has been proven to reduce crime in areas where it is implemented properly and makes full use of initiatives such as Text Alert. He told the committee there are over 1,400 Community Alert groups nationwide and over half of these have implemented the Text Alert programme in the last two years with over 300,000 texts now being sent each month.
Diarmuid Cronin, Community Alert Development Officer gave a case study of the West Cork Division, one of the largest Garda divisions in the country and which has a very active Community Alert programme. That entire division has less than half the number of burglaries of Mallow alone.
Addressing the issue of resources, Niall Garvey welcomed the recent announcement of Project Thor but outlined how reallocating a relatively small amount of resources to preventative community based measures can achieve much greater results. An active Community Alert group can have several hundred people assisting in crime prevention at a very low cost. However he pointed out that these groups currently bear all the costs themselves – signage, insurance, text costs and so on, and even pay VAT on top of that.
Paddy Byrne, National President of Muintir, pointed out a number of initiatives the organisation was proposing in its detailed submission. These included restrictions on bail and free legal aid for repeat offenders, with such legal aid becoming a repayable loan. The organisation also proposed a number of non-custodial deterrents such as electronic tagging, curfews, restrictions of driving licenses, seizure of property used in committing crimes and so on.
Niall Garvey also proposed the formation of special purpose committee to examine rural crime. This committee would have a limited time and budget but would be tasked with reviewing practical solutions such as those being put forward by Muintir na Tíre. Senator Katherine Zappone suggested the Justice Committee should support that recommendation.
In concluding, Deputy David Stanton, the Committee Chairman, thanked the organisation for their detailed and well considered recommendations, and for their support of Community Alert over the last 30 years. The full Muintir na Tíre submission can be read here.

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