Pilot projects to target prolific and violent criminals due for Dublin, Limerick and Cork

Pilot projects targeting prolific and violent offenders in Dublin are expected to be rolled out across the country next year — including, most likely, in Limerick and Cork.
Pilot projects to target prolific and violent criminals due for Dublin, Limerick and Cork

The heads of the police, probation, and prison agencies, along with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, are already impressed at the impact of the new initiative.

Up to 80 of Dublin’s 200 most prolific offenders are currently being targeted under the Joint Agency Response to Crime (J-ARC).

These include repeat burglars, violent offenders, and criminals tormenting local communities.

“I’m very excited about the potential of the programme,” said Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at yesterday’s launch.

“The early indications from the feedback of members on the ground is very positive.”

She said that from an offenders’ point of view, the scheme — which brings together people from the gardaí, the probation service, and the prison service — identifies those who can be diverted. She said she was in favour of rolling the scheme out nationally.

The director of the Probation Service, Vivian Geiran, said there were four projects being piloted: One through the Bridge Project, which works with men with a history of violence; two projects in the Acer 3 programme targeting burglars, one in the south inner city, and the other in Tallaght, and a fourth project, called Strive, targeting prolific offenders of crime generally in east Ballymun.

Mr Geiran said the bridge change works programme had the capacity to deal with 50 offenders, while the other three combined will be able to take 40. They currently have up to 80 people.

While each pilot is running for two years, Mr Geiran said he and the other heads were already discussing expanding it.

He said that by the new year, they should be able to identify areas, and said obvious locations would be the likes of Limerick and Cork.

He said he was “confident” the project would be a success, and said the proof will be in reduced reoffending.

Michael Donnellan, director of the Irish Prison Service, said prolific offenders were “out of control and causing huge damage” and said these individuals believed they were “out of the reach” of the system.

He also expected the project to expand to other parts of the country in 2016.

“The benefits are clear for everyone — less crime, less victims and a safer Ireland,” he said.

Ms Fitzgerald said she could see “no reason” why it couldn’t be expanded. She commended the heads of the different agencies for “showing leadership”, and coming out of their “silos” and working together in a structured and practical way.

“It’s not the case when talking about working with offenders that you are not thinking about the victims: you are helping to reduce the number of victims,” Ms Fitzgerald said

Deputy Garda Commissioner John Twomey said that very often, criminals wanted to change their behaviour “but didn’t know how to go about that”, and said J-ARC provided them with that alternative.

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