Community 'is key to winning war on gangs'
By Tom Brady Security Editor
Tuesday January 13 2009
BUILDING a fruitful working relationship between gardai and the community will make it easier for people to give evidence against thugs who terrorise their area, says Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy.
He is hopeful that the new focus on community policing will also yield information in solving gangland crime.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Cmsr Murphy said the "re-energised" concept of community partnership would be based on adapting a variety of policing models to suit local needs.
"What is very appropriate to an inner city area would not be suitable in a rural community," he said.
The commissioner said projects which were operated on a trial basis in Dublin's north inner city; Tallaght; Thomastown, Co Kilkenny; and the Inishowen Peninsula, in Co Donegal, would form the main planks of his new campaign.
He believed the recently established joint policing committees would provide gardai with a more meaningful voice within local districts.
"I'm talking about partnerships with people who do voluntary work, like sporting bodies and community leaders, but also about enforcement because that's a major part of it and about visibility," he added.
The community policing concept will operate alongside other local initiatives to tackle the crimes that affect the day-to-day lives of people, such as burglaries.
Cmsr Murphy revealed that the number of burglaries had increased in the past year.
The garda authorities would focus resources into areas where burglaries and other crimes were on the increase, he said.
The number of firearms and drugs being recovered clearly proved that gardai were enjoying success against the gangs and he believed the ban on handguns would help prevent Irish society from developing an entrenched gun culture.
He recognised that some types of gangland crime had proven easier to tackle. "With drugs, you have to carry the commodity. With these gang shootings, it happens very quickly.
"Essentially, if you can commit the crime, do the killing, dispose of the weapons and not leave any forensic evidence, there is a great chance it will be difficult for the police to get enough evidence to get the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring about a charge. That's the challenge that's facing us," he added.
Cmsr Murphy said that while the gardai were achieving successes with seizures on the supply side of the drugs problem, there was a need for society to be working harder on the demand side.
He reminded people who paid money for a line of cocaine that they were contributing to the profits of the dealers.
The commissioner also highlighted the "propensity to resort to violence", particularly among young males. "We will shortly be rolling out a knife-awareness campaign and will be focusing on cities like Dublin, Cork and Limerick, where we see a need.
"There is a propensity in our communities to resort to that extreme violence for seemingly lesser reasons than might have happened in the past."
- Tom Brady Security Editor