Fine Gael is protecting communities in Carlow and prioritising victims of crime – DEERING.

25th November, 2016

 

39% drop in Recorded Crime Offences.

There is a saying that the fear of crime is worse than the crime itself.

Certain political parties know this, and engage in scaremongering on crime to score political points and shore up votes.

This is not to minimise the very real impact that crime can have on an individual, or in a community. However, scaremongering is not a solution. It is crucial to reassure people that Fine Gael in Government, led by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, is very serious about fighting crime. We are working to protect communities across the country, and to prioritise victims when crime does occur.

Scaremongering on this issue by Fianna Fáil is not only pointless, but it is also hypocritical. After they crashed our economy, Fianna Fáil closed the Garda training college at Templemore in 2009 and brought recruitment of Gardaí to a shuddering halt. By contrast, the Fine Gael led Government reopened Templemore and is recruiting Gardaí again in significant numbers. Budget 2017 provides for the recruitment of 800 Gardaí next year, and we will bring the strength of our police force up to 15,000 by 2021. That’s in addition to the 1,200 Gardaí recruited since the reopening of Templemore. Fianna Fáil, on the other hand, proposed only 500 Gardaí in their last pre-Budget submission and they have yet to come up with any substantive justice policy.

In addition to Garda recruitment, the significant investment in Garda Units, Garda vehicles, stations and ICT systems, shows that under this Government, Fine Gael is absolutely committed to tackling crime. In fact the Government is investing €330 million, including €205 million under the capital plan, in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021.

The Gardaí’s Operation Thor is a relatively new initiative, designed to protect our streets, communities and homes. It has overseen more than 30,000 crime prevention patrols and approximately 38,500 targeted checkpoints nationwide. Operation Thor is working. CSO figures show that burglary was down by 30% in the first Quarter of this year and by 26% in the second Quarter compared to 2015. Here in Carlow / Kilkenny District, recorded crime offences fell from 167 in 2015Q2 to 102 in the same period this year, a fall of 38.92%. However that doesn’t mean we should be complacent.

New legislation coming down the tracks in the very near future highlights how Fine Gael is getting tougher on the perpetrators of crime, particularly repeat offenders. The new Bail Bill meets the commitment in the Programme for Government to introduce and fast-track legislation providing for stricter bail terms for repeat serious offenders. This will strengthen Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail, increase the use of curfews, and introduce electronic tagging for those on bail, where requested by Gardaí. Gardaí will have new powers of arrest without warrant for breach of bail conditions, and the courts will have the power to prohibit an accused person from driving, where the person has been charged with a serious road traffic offence.

The Minister also recently announced that funding for the Community Alert Programme has been doubled to €350,000. It now incorporates a new €100,000 rebate scheme for local groups registered under the Garda Text Alert Scheme who are working in tandem with the Gardaí to help protect our local communities.

Victims must be at the centre of any policy on crime. Where crime does occur, victims are given the priority and protection they deserve by this Fine Gael led Government. Minister Fitzgerald recently announced an additional €250,000 in funding for victims’ organisations, bringing the total funding available in 2017 to €1.712 million. This will assist community and voluntary organisations working in Carlow to reduce the trauma experienced by victims of crime and support them to move on with their lives. This includes informing victims of their rights and providing court accompaniment for those who need it.

A recent Crime Victimisation Report shows why prioritising the rights of victims is so important. It found that almost 40% of crime victims did not report the crime to Gardaí. Victims must be reassured that they will be supported and taken seriously if they report a crime. The new Bail laws will strengthen the voice of victims and allow courts to hear evidence from the victim of an offence before making a decision on bail.

Fine Gael’s vision is for a just and fair society that gives everyone in our country the opportunity to live a decent and fulfilling life. We showed we can repair a broken economy, but that’s not enough if we don’t tackle the societal issues caused by the recession which had such devastating effects for so many people. Fine Gael is using its position in Government to build an economy that works for society and not the other way around.

This means protecting the economic progress we have made, and using it to invest in quality public services that will benefit people and communities all across the country. Investing in crime prevention and protecting communities here in Carlow is a very important part of that plan.