117. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice if she will report on the assessment of the problem of persons not feeling safe in the city centre following her round of meetings; and if new initiatives are in development. [51158/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I can assure the Deputy that both I and the Government are committed to the safety of the public, whether they live or work in Dublin or want to visit and enjoy our capital city. The Government is determined to tackle anti-social and violent behaviour, and I am very conscious of the impact such behaviour can have on the quality of life for local communities, including in Dublin’s city centre.
As the Deputy is aware, I recently met with the Garda authorities, Dublin business owners and local representatives to discuss anti-social behaviour in the city centre. The Deputy will also be aware that last week’s budget includes significant additional funding to support initiatives under the Youth Justice Strategy and the new Community Safety Innovation Fund which will support community based initiatives to ensure public safety.
Gardaí continue to implement high visibility policing plans to address public disorder related issues and anti-social behaviour, with particular overt and targeted policing of public places at times when public order incidents and anti-social behaviour typically increase, such as bank holiday weekends. This includes specific high visibility operations to tackle anti-social behaviour in Dublin city centre in order to reassure citizens, visitors and the business community.
I am further informed that Operation Soteria is in place to target a reduction of assaults in public, reduce fear of violence within communities, prioritise assault investigations and focus on problem areas and assault hotspots.
Further, Operation Pier and Operation Spire are underway within Dublin City Centre, in the DMR South Central and North Central Divisions respectively. These operations form the basis of a regional response to city centre street-level drug dealing and possession of drugs, with members performing dedicated patrols in areas known to have a high concentration of such issues. Some key areas targeted are those that have a significant nightlife economy.
Both operations are undertaken by uniformed and plain-clothes members on a full-time basis, with the objective to investigate, detect, prevent and prosecute criminal offences committed under the Misuse of Drugs Act. A large proportion of these operations focus on high-visibility and pro-active policing and engagement with the residential and business communities.
As the Deputy will also be aware, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, Minister of State James Browne last year established an Expert Forum on Anti-Social Behaviour. This forum is considering the effectiveness of existing legislation and looking at proposals for new ways forward, including new powers for An Garda Síochána and additional interventions to support parenting of offenders.
A subgroup of the forum has recently been established to examine the issue of knife crime, with a first meeting of the subgroup taking place on 26 September. This follows a previous subgroup which examined the misuse of scramblers and quadbikes. Similar sub-groups can also be established for other relevant issues where appropriate.
The Deputy will also be aware of the Local Community Safety Partnership pilot which is underway in the north inner city, chaired by Mr Cormac Ó Donnchú. Local Community Safety Partnerships 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 Local Community Safety Partnerships will be rolled out nationwide to all local authority areas after the pilot phase of two years.