Communities welcome Government pledge to consider 'mini' CABs

Community groups have welcomed plans in the Programme for Government to consider setting up “mini” Criminal Assets Bureaus for areas hit by gangs and drugs.

They also welcome Government pledges to support a “health-led rather than criminal justice” approach to drug use and to legislate for “injecting rooms”.

The programme plans to improve communications between affected communities and CAB to help identify and target local dealers and review the legislation underpinning the agency.

In addition, the programme will:

  • Instigate an examination of mandatory sentencing for aggravated burglaries through the Oireachtas Justice Committee;
  • Pilot the reopening of six garda stations in urban and rural areas under a review by the Policing Authority;
  • Accelerate garda recruitment “with a view” to increase numbers to 15,000 — but does not give a timeline.

The visible wealth of local gang leaders in communities has long been an issue for drug activists and for almost two decades the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign, an umbrella organisation of drug projects, has called for “mini-CABs”.

The programme said the Government will “review” the existing Proceeds of Crime legislation and ensure that “adequate resources” are provided to CAB to support its work in tackling money laundering and to target the proceeds of crime.

It adds: “We will examine how communities can better engage with CAB including provision of information on the suspected local use of the proceeds of crime and the potential of a smaller CAB being established to target regional assets.”

Fergus McCabe of Citywide said: “Obviously, we welcome that. We’ve said for years we need to do more. We went through a process with researcher Mark Morgan, who examined how local mechanisms, effectively mini-CABs, would work, and that was back in 2001-2002. They are now, belatedly, beginning to look at it and it could make an impact. It will not be a panacea, but we need to be proactive on drug dealing and intimidation.”

He also welcomed the commitment towards a health, rather than a criminal justice, approach to drug use, including medically-supervised injecting rooms.

“That’s along with evidence-based research now and what’s happening in the US and South America and the harm reduction model in Europe,” said Mr McCabe. “That does not mean you don’t deal with [criminal] issues regarding drugs.”

In relation to both promises, he said: “Ultimately, it is about implementation and appropriate resourcing.”

He expressed concern that there is no mention in the programme of “an integrated strategy” for both illegal drugs and alcohol.

Tony Duffin of the Ana Liffey Drug Project also backed the health approach to drug use, saying there is “strong evidence” for it, adding that drugs were implicated in 679 deaths in 2013. He called for a dedicated minister of state “solely focused on the drugs issue” to be appointed.

The plan also highlights the need for a “national and co-ordinated response” to gangs and a “core structural review of decision-making arrangements” on security.

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