557. Deputy Ivana Bacik asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been brought to recent incidences of violent antisocial behaviour in the south inner city of Dublin; the steps her Department is taking to address escalating crime in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43691/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): At the outset, I would like to assure the Deputy that the Government takes concerns regarding anti-social behaviour very seriously. Minister Humphreys and I are acutely aware of the impact that anti-social behaviour has on local communities and I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that An Garda Síochána are continuing to actively monitor crime trends and engage with local communities to help reduce crime throughout the inner city. Any cases of assault or intimidation are completely unacceptable.
Preventing children getting involved in and diverting children away from criminality when they have already become involved is a key priority for the Department of Justice, and both the Programme for Government and the Justice Plan 2021 contain a number of commitments with regard to tackling anti-social behaviour.
As the Deputy may be aware, I launched the Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027 earlier this year. The immediate priority within the new Strategy is to enhance engagement with children and young people who are most at risk of involvement in criminal activity, principally by strengthening the services available through the existing network of 105 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) across the State.
GYDPs engage with young people through a range of supports, including education, training and employment support, social enterprise initiatives, as well as personal development and supports such as mentoring and personal development activities. Experience in the operation of the Children Act highlights the need to include children below the age of criminal responsibility (12 for most offences) in preventative measures, and to consider the extension of measures to divert young offenders away from the criminal justice system beyond the age of 18.
In line with a commitment in the Programme for Government, I have also established an Expert Forum on Anti-Social Behaviour. This forum is considering the effectiveness of existing legislation and will seek to propose new ways forward, including new powers for An Garda Síochána, if required, and additional interventions to support parenting of offenders.
The Deputy may wish to note that there has been an increase of 14% in the number of Gardaí assigned to the Dublin South Central Division between 2015 and August 2021, although it should be noted that issues such as anti-social behaviour cannot be solved by An Garda Síochána alone.
As the Deputy may be aware, on 13 November 2020 Minister Helen McEntee announced that the Department will pilot Local Community Safety Partnerships in three areas, including Dublin’s north inner city. Local Community Safety Partnerships are the new structures described in the Department’s Community Safety Policy which are designed to take a holistic approach to safety issues in partnership with the community. The Partnerships will allow local communities to identify issues of particular concern within their area and work with the relevant State services to develop a local Community Safety Plan to specifically tackle these issues. The pilots will run for the next two years ahead of a nationwide rollout to all local authority areas.