Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

10 July 2008 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column












Safer neighbourhoods need united community and police response

HARDLY a day passes without media reports of elderly people being attacked, sexual assaults, death driving, shootings and stabbings in various parts of the country. Unfortunately, these are the issues that make headlines.
But media reports do not paint the full picture or the full extent of damage to communities daily afflicted by the irresponsible actions of a minority. These anti-community elements are not only responsible for physical attacks, robberies and the destruction of property but for instilling fear and apprehension into the general public to the extent that people are afraid to venture into certain sections of out cities, towns and rural communities at night.
Although the lack of government investment in social capital (such as recreational facilities, housing, education etc) is a contributing factor, it cannot be used as justification for anti-community activity. While there is a need to reach out to the people involved and attempt to influence them to desist, there can be no equivocation in our condemnation of them and no ambiguity in our support for the wider community.
It is time to reclaim our neighbourhoods through positive action. But while elected representatives, community leaders and residents acting together can help to deter the small minority from vandalising our homes, property and streets, the PSNI and Garda need to be seen to be tackling the more serious crime in the community.
It is no good hearing government ministers threaten the introduction of harsher penalties if existing legislation and resources are not being properly utilised and targeted. Neither does it serve the community for the PSNI and Garda to continuously blame lack of resources for the rising crime figures and anti-community activity. There was never a problem with resources when it came to political policing in both parts of this island. If the same resolve and fervour was used to tackle criminal or anti-community activity then I believe there is no lack of resources.
I believe that a strong, united community response, coupled with properly deployed policing, is required to combat these issues.
Many of the more localised and general anti-community issues can be tackled by talking to and listening to young people, making them part of the solution by encouraging outlets for their energies that will enhance community relations through self-respect and confidence. Those few that refuse to adhere to the wishes of their community should be left in no doubt that their activity will not be tolerated and that every legal avenue will be used against them.
For those involved in serious crime in the community, the Garda, PSNI and the judicial system must be seen to be proactive in taking them off our streets.   

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1