THE crime rate among young offenders – some of whom had 35 convictions – plummeted by 64% under a new Garda scheme being rolled out across the country.
The scheme, which sees each young offender case managed by an individual garda, resulted in the number of charges racked up by 16 young people fall from 219 to 80 in a nine-month period.
The programme was operated in the Dublin Metropolitan North Central Division and was so successful that it has been extended there to include adults and sex offenders.
The number of people being managed on a one-to-one basis in the north inner city is 110, although the Chief Supt overseeing the scheme said it did not always prevent the “nuclear option” of detention being utilised.
Chief Supt Pat Leahy told a conference yesterday that last week a 13-year- old was brought before the courts after the gang of youths he was leading was involved in more than 50 robberies, some of which resulted in other youngsters receiving broken noses and broken jaws.
He told the Irish Youth Justice Service conference that the pilot scheme is now included in the National Policing Plan for this year. His division is also to receive a Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Awards next month due to the success of the scheme.
Supt Leahy said each of the 16 youths, aged between 13 and 18, had been detailed with a garda who received training so as to case manage the youth. It meant having to appear in court alongside the young person, dealing with their families and interacting with other agencies.
He said the system was needed because otherwise anything up to 20 gardaí could be in court dealing with the crimes of just one young offender, while the child was more involved with the criminal justice system instead of being at school, a situation he described as “just not acceptable any longer”.
“Nobody was taking responsibility for the overall package – the child,” he said, adding that “case management is not labour intensive once it is up and running”.
More adults and sex offenders are likely to come under the scope of the programme, he said, urging that more be done to develop the scheme in other parts of the country.
The conference had heard from Supt Colette Quinlan of the Garda Office for Children and Youth Affairs that new data showed young people involved in more serious crimes, such as burglary, are more likely to go on and become adult offenders, as opposed to those involved in criminal damage and drunkenness.
Some 20,000 young people come into contact with gardaí every year and youth crime statistics in Cork, Birr, Ballinasloe, Priorswood and Tallaght will undergo analysis as part of a pilot scheme aimed at reducing the crime rate.
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