Thursday, 25 October 2007

Tackling the gangs

Tackling the gangs

Thursday October 25 2007

Two extraordinary, organised gang murders in recent days have focussed public attention on the rise in violent crime.

The beating to death of young truck driver Paul Quinn in Co Monaghan as "punishment" for having offended some shadowy godfather, followed by the murder of garrulous young Dublin gang leader, John Daly, were remarkable for the cold blooded manner of their execution and for the killers' obvious contempt for the State and its law enforcers.

They seem to say, 'look, we can do what we like'.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the crime figures from the Central Statistics Office, as reported today, have attracted attention.

The most dramatic news is that there has been a sharp increase in the number of recorded murders in the third quarter of 2007 compared to the same period last year.

There were 21 murders, compared to 14, an increase of 50pc. We immediately think of armed gangs blasting at each other with automatic weapons.

But is that the whole story?

The fact that there have been 17 gang killings this year, the same number as in the same period last year, tells us that there has been a sharp increase in murders which are unrelated to gang crime.

This in a country with a rapidly growing population.

Yet something has to be done about the gangs. The Taoiseach has told the Dail that "draconian measures", including special criminal courts, will be considered if the gangs continue to break the law.

He must know that the gangs are not listening and have utter contempt for him, the Dail, the gardai, the courts and, ultimately, the prison authorities.

If his warning did cause a ripple of alarm in some quarters, it will have been quelled by the Minister for Justice's reminder that the Director of Public Prosecutions already possesses the power to refer trials to the special courts if he chooses.

It would be wrong to attempt to minimise the level of crime, but it is important to retain some perspective. The CSO figures show that a number of crimes that directly affect ordinary people, such as sexual offences, thefts, burglaries and robberies have actually decreased.

All credit to the gardai.

But while the drug gangs continue to wage war on the streets, the public will remain sceptical.

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