Pubdate: Sat, 29 Dec 2012
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2012 The Irish Times


The term of the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, has just been
extended by two years. While seen as an effective officer who is
across his brief, making the most of reduced resources, Callinan has
also had the good fortune to be in office at a time that crime is falling.

Recorded crime peaked in 2008 and has reduced yearly since, with the
overall drop at 13 per cent to the end of 2011. Homicide and gun crime
have both almost halved, while drug crime is down by more than 25 per
cent. Burglary is the only crime to buck the recent falling trends.
Public-order offences, sex crimes, assaults, thefts and others are all
down. While the received wisdom is that crime rises in recession, this
is not happening in many countries.

Garda sources say that, with spending power down, alcohol and
recreational drug consumption have fallen, leading to a drop in crimes
linked to the drugs trade, including gun crime, and offences by drunk
people, such as public disorder and street violence.

However, there are clear signs that gangland crime, in particular, is
not ready to pack up and disappear. In 2008 the value of drugs seized
across the State exceeded EUR 100 million. In 2009 it fell to EUR 42
million, and EUR 28 million in 2010. Last year it bounced back to EUR 89.5
million, and this year's seizures to September were EUR 90 million. The
value of total drug seizures for 2012 will be in line with those
record boomtime levels, but this doesn't mean organised crime is
stronger than ever.

Cocaine trade drove the growth in gangland crime in the boom and
remains depressed. A lot of the feuding that went with it, in the
Dublin suburbs of Finglas, Blanchardstown, Coolock, Crumlin and
Drimnagh and in parts of Limerick, has eased. But in recent years
cannabis grow houses have increased exponentially; the vastly
increased seizures of cannabis have bolstered an otherwise ailing
drugs trade.

Most of these operations are run by Chinese and Vietnamese gangs. And
while the established feuding between Irish gangs has fallen off, a
super feud between the Real IRA and a number of gangs in Dublin has
taken over, leading to a number of murders in recent years, with
efforts by the gangs to resist RIRA extortion demands spawning
significant violence. The shooting dead of a key Real IRA figure, Alan
Ryan, in Dublin in September and the killing of the veteran criminal
Eamon Kelly nearly four weeks ago significantly escalated hostilities.
In Garda security briefings that Minister Alan Shatter gets now, this
dispute will dwarf everything else.

With 100 Garda stations to close and Garda numbers to fall to 13,000
in 2013, any surge in that feud or other gangland violence will see
Shatter under extreme pressure.

A black-market trade has also emerged in drugs banned just over two
years ago in anti-head shop legislation, and ecstasy is showing a
resurgence, with a number of deaths reported from both in recent months. 
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