Adjournment Debate. - Car Theft.

Thursday, 6 May 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 504 No. 3

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Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Over the weekend, a popular young Dún Laoghaire man, Mr. Mark Bryan, was slaughtered by a car driven by a 20 year old thief out on bail who was driving on the wrong side of the Lucan bypass. A few weeks earlier, a father of four working in his hackney car, Mr. Derek Hall, Tallaght, was also tragically slaughtered by a similar stolen car. Over recent years, as the Minister knows, approximately nine people have been killed in Cork city. My constituency has [557] been plagued with the problem. There have been several near misses and people are asking when the next fatality will occur.

I read the response in today's Irish Independent of the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Pat Byrne, who rightly emphasised the issues of safety and the use of a helicopter and a stinger, but that response is not good enough. It is not good enough for the Bryan and Hall families, the families who lost loved ones in Cork or in my constituents who live in terror three or four nights a week. That response is one of the reasons I have asked for an independent audit of our crime statistics. In relation to joyriding, for example, if the 400 or 500 members of the travelling public who are affected by this crime on a nightly basis reported these cases – the majority of them do not – our crime statistics would be higher. Perhaps the Commissioner would take this matter seriously.

This is about the eighth occasion I have raised this problem in the Dáil – I raised it four or five times with the Taoiseach on the Order of Business – and the third time I have raised it on the Adjournment, yet the problem remains. I commend Assistant Garda Commissioner McHugh who, in response to my previous request, helped to set up a joyriding task force for the Dublin north-east area comprising the local authority, public representatives, the gardaí and local people. That is an initiative but public representatives have not been kept informed of meetings. The Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, also has responsibility in this area. A few weeks ago Deputy Shortall was thrown out of the House when she demanded that the juvenile justice Bill, which has been on the stocks for the last four years, be passed. That Bill emphasises victim support and restorative justice and would be a welcome addition to the legislation available to the Garda.

The Labour Party is willing to support amendments to the Road Traffic Act, 1994, if it is not strong enough and if the Garda Commissioner needs additional powers. More Garda resources are needed in the worst affected areas in north Cork and Dublin city. The J and R districts of north-east Dublin need another 50 or 60 gardaí. These resources should be made available in a manner similar to that used to tackle the drugs problem.

We should expand the task force idea to the south side of Dublin, Cork city and other affected areas. Most of all we need an education and information campaign targeted at young people. The Minister, Deputy McCreevy, recently gave the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, about £14 million for the youth projects under the sports capital programme. That is about 25 per cent of the money needed. I could spend £2 million in my constituency. The money allocated is not enough when we consider what needs to be done. My task force area is pro[558] posing to set up a car education and young driver training course similar to those introduced some years ago when this problem first plagued us. These courses try to involve some of the young people in responsible careers in driving after they have completed their punishment, if that is what they desire. This needs support from the Department of Finance.

This is a serious problem. What happened to the families in Tallaght and Dun Laoghaire is outrageous. I urge the Ministers for Finance and Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Commissioner to take the problem seriously and try to solve it once and for all.

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  On behalf of the Minister, I thank the Deputy for raising the issue of joyriding and for giving me the opportunity to set out the Garda response to this anti-social behaviour. With regard to the incident which occurred 2 May 1999 at 2.14 a.m. on the N4 Lucan bypass, on behalf of the Minister, I wish to extend sympathy to the relatives of the person killed in that incident. The matter is under investigation with a view to submitting a file to the Law Officers.

The Minister understands that provisional statistics for 1998 indicate that unauthorised taking are 13,793. At a time when there are indications of a dramatic and consistent decrease in crime generally, this is a matter which gives the Minister cause for concern. As the Minister has outlined to the House on previous occasions, the problem of joyriding is an example of disorderly and unruly activities by a small minority of young people, most of whom come from backgrounds which may have disadvantages of various kinds. Although disadvantage is not an excuse for this type of behaviour, it does highlight the need for an inter-agency approach to the problem.

The Garda Síochána have the power and resources to deal with the problem. The Minister has been informed by Garda authorities that certain measures have been taken. There are higher visibility patrols in urban areas. Gardaí are also using the vehicle stopping device known as the “stinger”. This device is not automatically used in every case of joyriding as the safety of the general public is the primary concern. An assessment must be made in each instance by a senior ranking Garda officer as to whether it is safe to use the stinger in a given circumstance. The stinger was used on 18 occasions in 1998 and 13 occasions in 1997. The device and the Garda air support unit combined have been used to apprehend car thieves.

The gardaí have the power under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994, to stop and seize vehicles they believe to be driven by under-age drivers. Gardaí liaise with local authorities on traffic management issues with the result that traffic calming measures are introduced or will be introduced in urban areas.

[559] As part of the continuing campaign against joyriding, the Garda are deeply conscious of the need to secure the support of the public in the worst affected areas. This is why, as well as apprehending offenders, they are and will continue to meet with local people and community groups who are concerned about anti-social activities.

The Minister supports and funds programmes generally referred to as youth diversion schemes, which are community based and designed to draw young people away from crime. In the current year, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will fund 24 Garda youth diversion projects. This represents a doubling of these projects from 12 to 24 during this Government's term of office. The Minister also funds projects run by the Probation and Welfare Service.

Of the 14 Garda projects established between 1991 and 1998, seven operate in Dublin in Ronanstown, Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Cherry Orchard, Darndale, the north inner city and Finglas south. The six new projects being established this year will be located at Donore Avenue, O'Devaney Gardens, Ballybrack/ Loughlinstown, lower Ballyfermot and Ballymun.

Three projects have been established in Cork city in Knocknaheeney, Mahon and the Glen. [560] The two Limerick projects are based in Moyross and Southhill. Two projects also operate in Waterford in Ballybeg and Farran Park in the south-east of the city. The remaining projects are located in Bray, Tralee, Sligo and Dundalk.

Through the combined efforts of local agencies, these projects aim to identify the young people at risk and assess intervention programmes to service their needs. They also aim to promote the productive and creative use of the target group's leisure time with a view to enabling their integration into mainstream youth activity groups, and to liaise closely with parents, schools, other agencies and the community in general.

The Garda Síochána will not let up in their continuing campaign against joyriding and will continue to work with local communities and State services so that all possible steps are taken to deter such behaviour. The need for an inter-agency approach to this problem in disadvantaged areas is one which has been expounded on numerous occasions. I assure the Deputy that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will continue do its utmost to try to resolve the difficulty in so far as it is in a position to do so.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.15 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 May 1999.

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