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Commissioner: Gardaí seeing a "rush to violence" across society

Noirín O’Sullivan says the spike in homicides in the past year is not attributable to organised crime, but to domestic and other issues.

ACTING GARDA COMMISSIONER Noirín O’Sullivan says there’s been a “rush to violence” within society in recent years.

Speaking to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee this morning, the force commander said the recent rise in homicide rates was attributable to “more propensity to violence”.

While noting that “any death is a death too many” she pointed out that the rise in murders by 16 in the 12 months up to the end of March this year was not attributable to organised crime.

“They would be attributable to domestic or familial rather than other types of interaction,” O’Sullivan said.

A spike in violent killings at the very start of the year contributed towards the sharp annual increase in homicides — with seven such deaths occurring in just the first twelve days of January.

“While the homicide rate is up, there’s a detection rate of 67 per cent,” the Commissioner observed, adding:

We want to prevent deaths rather than detect them.

[Screengrab: Oireachtas.ie]

Garda numbers

In terms of cuts to garda numbers, the Commissioner said the current staffing level was just under 13,000.

The previous Commissioner, Martin Callinan, warned in 2012 that the 13,000 figure was the minimum level required for efficient policing.

However, O’Sullivan stressed how the introduction of new rosters last year had helped “cluster” available resources

It means we’ve more people to put out on the street and helps us feed into high-visibility policing.

Asked by Fianna Fáil’s Sean Fleming how the public service recruitment ban, and the consequent drop-off in numbers, had affected the force in recent years, she said:

It certainly has given us an opportunity to look at how we do our business and led us to the revised roster system.

However, she said “we’re very close to the point beyond which we shouldn’t go”.

Sean Fleming TD [Oireachtas.ie] 

Finances

The Commissioner and other senior gardaí were before the PAC to answer questions on force finances — in particular their accounts for 2012 and issues surrounding the management of outsourced road safety cameras.

In his opening statement to the committee, Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy recommended that the five year contract for mobile safety cameras currently held by GoSafe be formally reviewed before the end of the year.

He pointed out that when the plan was originally envisaged, it was hoped that the receipts from detections of offences would be more than enough to cover the cost of the contract.

“The outrun has been quite different,” McCarthy said, “with less than 30 per cent of the contract costs being recovered from detections in 2012″.

This shortfall in receipts from GoSafe detections is met by fixed charge notice fine receipts related to other defected offences, which would otherwise have been paid into the Exchequer.

Reacting to the C&AG’s recommendation, O’Sullivan said that the outsourcing of safety cameras had “played a critical role in reducing road deaths and improving the safety of our roads”.

She said that since their introduction in late 2010, the project had led to a reduction in in fatal collisions and improved speed limit compliance by drivers in the relevant zones.

“For example, in the five years prior to their introduction, approximately 30 per cent of fatal collisions annually were occurring in particular zones.

In 2013 there was a 40 per cent reduction of fatal collisions in these zones — this was a saving of 23 lives.

She said that the behaviour of motorists had improved significantly in recent years as a result of their awareness of the cameras.

“Survey data from the zones in 2011 showed the average compliance rates across all speed limits was 81 per cent.

By January 2014, the compliance rate was 95 per cent – or a 17 per cent improvement.

In conclusion, she said: “The safety camera project is achieving its overall aim of reducing speed related collisions and, therefore, saving lives”.

Read: Murders up, but most other crimes down in the 12 months to March

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