The Shaming Tide of Violent Crime

Article excerpt

THE latest figures for violent deaths are the worst since the Civil War.Perhaps that extraordinary revelation might be enough to silence the absurdnotion that the deepening crime crisis is somehow an invention of scaremongers.Not only are these tragic numbers at record levels, it is the most seriouscrimes that have increased most sharply.

These shaming statistics are all the more shocking when it is remembered thatmoney is not the problem it once was. The old bogus excuse that poverty is theroot cause of crime cannot hold up after these years of prosperity.

But neither can the traditional lament for the lack of resourcing for An GardaSiochana. We still need more gardai, but rising numbers have not themselvesdented rising crime rates.

Justice Minister Brian Lenihan has been commendably careful not to rush intoany hasty but foolish measures. Now, though, is the time for some imaginativethinking. Simply fixing some of the glaring failures in our approach topolicing would make a huge difference.

There is no reason why so much forensic evidence must go to Britain foranalysis, with all the practical and legal risks that involves. Nor is itacceptable that for long gardai suffered without a dedicated shooting range tolearn essential skills for combating the most violent gangs. Nor has a cultureof refusing to pass information to gardai been tackled.

It is perfectly understandable that those who have been threatened may bereluctant to work with gardai. But until that is addressed, convictions to shutdown violent gangs will remain as difficult to secure. So it is particularlyshortsighted that the Witness Protection Programme remains such a shambles.

Putting safeguards for essential witnesses on secure legal footings andensuring the resources are readily available for anyone with crucialinformation ought to be a very top priority, both as a matter of justice forthose unlucky enough to find their lives are at risk from criminality they havewitnessed, and as an urgent practical step to increase convictions. …