What should be the Garda priorities? July 4, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Crime, Inequality, Justice, Society.
An Garda Síochána is conducting a public consultation as part of its preparation of a three-year strategy for 2013–2015. Have a look at how they frame the discussion with the first question in the consultation [the Gardaí use drop-down boxes with the numbers for ranking, but they don’t transalte to CLR’s website]:
An Garda Síochána has limited resources and is faced with a wide range of demands. In your opinion, what priority should An Garda Síochána give to the following policing areas? (Rank in order of priority – 1 being most important and 10 being least important. Each number can only be used once.)
Drugs (including importing, selling and taking drugs) Public Order (for example, tackling drunkenness or rowdiness as well as anti-social behaviour) Hate crimes (for example, targeting someone based on their race or sexuality) Ensuring road safety (for example, preventing serious and fatal collisions, young people racing around in car etc) Violent crimes (such as assaults rape, sexual assaults, and domestic violence) Property crime (such as burglaries, thefts and robberies) Criminal damage (for example, damage against your property, vehicle or graffiti) Fraud (for example, computer and telephone scams or someone else using your identity without your knowledge) Financial crimes committed by those working in businesses and large corporations. Human Trafficking (for purposes of labour or sexual exploitation)
Now, even leaving aside the question of precisely how the responses to a public consultation will affect the choices the Gardaí make for priority areas (if, oh, 400,000 responses tell them they should make hate crimes based on race or sexuality the first priority, and the next highest priority is in the 100s of responses, will that put it to the top of the list?), isn’t that opening question just weird?
Financial crimes presented as a separate category from fraud. And young people racing around in car — is it different when middle-aged people do it? All of the compenents of the drug trade lumped together without distinguishing those with power in the trade from those without. Anti-social behaviour — when it is not a deliberate political action — would seem to me to always be wrong, but drunkeness — if I don’t get rowdy or drive a vehicle — might not be, but the Gardaí have put them in the same category.
I would like to know how they rank crimes where there are large numbers of potential and articulate “direct” victims (public order and property crime, for example) against crimes where the victims may indirect (the gardaí’s ‘financial crimes’) or smaller in number (hate crimes) or vulnerable (trafficking). And how do you rank any of the crime categories against the more-than-just-crime issue of road safety?
I live in an area where the Chief Superintendent has gone beyond the legal requirements for county-based Garda Joint Policing Committees and holds quarterly meetings with residents’ associations and other local community groups in each of the areas covered by the individual stations across the Division. And he takes seriously the two questions of listening to concerns raised and reporting back. [Complaints about dangerous parking outside seven schools in the school rush-hours resulted in this response at the following meeting: They had checked the issue at all schools, and in two cases they agreed that the situation was dangerous, but in the others, just an inconvenience for a short period. They met the two school principals, and a letter went out to all parents at the two schools. A week later, some garda shifts were changed to have officers in place at both rush hours — that week, the gardaí spoke to drivers who tried to looked like they intended to park dangerously, told them to move on, and reminded the parents of the letter. The following week, the officers started issuing tickets, and 70 were issued in a month.]
At one of the meetings last year, the Superintendent presented statistics on garda activity in the station’s area. Among the data on speeding traps set up, speeding offences detected, drunk and disorderly outside pubs, burlaries, damage to property, etc. were two tables on drugs operations. One operation was implemented by the local drugs squad, and targeted local dealers. The other was an operation implemented by ‘beat’ and community gardaí and was targetted at the buyers. Up went a table showing the number of stops and searches in public spaces in the hunt to catch users with stock for their own use. That number over a year was in the high hundreds — I think it was between 700 and 800. But the total number of detections was in two digits. I made myself unpopular with a pair of questions: First, was it an effective use of resurces to stop and search so many people with so little crime detected for it? Second, what mechanisms did they have to ensure that the stops and searches did not work to alienating young men from the disadvantaged estates in the station’s area?
The current Garda national questionnaire does provide space to expalin your views, although some of the options you get appear to depend on the choices you make in previous questions. It would seem to be a bit difficult, but possible, to use the survey to present the kind of conerns I raised at the meeting. But I am minded to ignore some of the questions and say what I want to say anyway.
And in fairness, it is refreshing to get the opportunity to say that financial crimes need a bit more profile in the Gardaí’s work, although I am deeply uncomfortable having to rank that ahead or behind concerns like human trafficking or hate crimes.
If you would like to add your views, mosey on over to http://www.garda.ie/Controller.aspx?Page=9358