Traffic Corps ‘will aid crime-fighting’

Harry McGee, Political Editor

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr McDowell said the new dedicated traffic division will not only make a significant difference in clamping down on road traffic offences but will also be able to crack down on other forms of criminality.

This will be done through a strong deterrence factor because of the high visibility of gardaí on the road and because of a dramatic increase in the number of roadside checks.

"When the Road Traffic Corps comes in, there will be a lot of gardaí around Ireland on the road. That will have a serious knock-on effect for ordinary criminality," he said.

The formation of the Traffic Corps will be made possible by the recruitment of an extra 2,000 gardaí, a programme which he said would be competed by late 2006 or early 2007. The extra numbers will allow the corps to have a strength of 600. It will also lead to more gardaí being assigned to drugs, community policing and immigration.

The minister said Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy had given him a commitment that none of the 2,000 new garda recruits will be assigned to desk jobs. He said that 300 civil servants will transfer from the Department of Agriculture to take over clerical and administrative functions within An Garda Siochána.

In what could be taken as a new direction in the Government's policies on crime, the minister said he was also thinking of a clampdown on petty crime, including minor theft, vandalism and bicycle theft.

He said these types of incidents were the ones that affected the majority of people but often went unreported because people did not believe that they would be successfully investigated.

Mr McDowell said he was studying what kind of initiative would be best to tackle such small-scale incidents, which despite their minor nature individually, still represented a significant problem nationally.

Speaking about his record on tackling crime, Mr McDowell argued that crime figures had fallen during his time as minister.

"Between 1995-2005, absolute numbers are down. There was a blip in 2000 when Pulse (the garda computer system that collates crime statistics) came in.

"Since that started, the quarterly figures show that we are going the right direction. The population has gone up by 500,000. There is less crime committed even though there are far more people. The rate has fallen from 29 incidents per 1,000 to 24 per 1,000.

"That's steady enough process," he said before adding that a lot more has still to be done.

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