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Wednesday 26 June 2019

Declan Power: 'Gardaí can be role models and win trust on the streets'

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Declan Power

The recent gangland shootings in Dublin have brought into sharper focus a number of key issues that will need to be addressed by the State in order to better protect the citizenry from possible lethal spillover in future.

I say future, because the current spate of internecine killings in Dublin's gangland community is not going to go away.

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I should stress, this will not be the Garda's fault, as despite significant operational successes in recent times, a broader and more long-term approach will be needed to address the problem.

Currently, attempts to contain the worst excesses of the Kinahan-Hutch feud do not address the elephant in the room on this matter.

The issue is one of influence within the community. It's hard to offer youngsters a message to compete with what they see with their own eyes in their own areas. Young boys, on the cusp of becoming young men, actively look for role models.

Many readers will have heard Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy, the police officer responsible for the Dublin Metropolitan Region, being interviewed about the shootings this week.

What many will not realise is that Leahy, when a chief superintendent, presided over the north Dublin division when the Kinahan-Hutch feud was at its height.

Ugly as it was to begin with, the tide turned and the Garda achieved success in preventing more murders.

This largely happened not purely because of the revamping of armed police resources, but because of an initiative of Leahy's that had been developed some years before called the 'Small Areas Policing Scheme', or SAPS.

This was the foundation of re-empowering individually selected gardaí to get out on the ground and rebuild personal relationships with the community, from the elderly residents to the youngsters growing up and at risk of being lured astray by the gangster lifestyle.

The result was not just a flow of essential information, but also a partnership between the community and the ordinary patrol gardaí in that area.

Together they developed strategies to limit the violence and prevent young men being lured into a future life of crime.

But most importantly a reciprocal trust was developed between the community and their police.

It is time now for both Commissioner Harris and Minister Flanagan to continue the good work started and significantly re-embed the Garda back into the communities at risk.

As long-serving gardaí will tell you, people, especially young men, respect those who are seen to wield power and influence.

Entwining the ordinary uniformed men and women of An Garda Síochána into these communities and allowing them to naturally become role models to the boys and girls growing up there actively combats the lure of the muscle-bound thug in the flash car.

However, such initiatives do not happen like a nice neat episode out of TV's 'Blue Bloods'.

It requires investment, financial and otherwise, in leadership, training and recruitment of gardaí for this most elemental and essential aspect of policing.

Declan Power is an independent security and defence analyst

Irish Independent

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