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Rise and rise of gun culture

THE latest crime figures from the Central Statistics Office sparked the usual government claims that it is winning the battle, accompanied by the usual flurry of indignant accusations from the opposition. In truth, the statistical ebb and flow of one crime or another doesn't tell us much about whether we, as individuals, are becoming more or less likely to fall victim.

Gun attacks, like that at the Players Lounge in Fairview this week, tell us that whatever about the increase in the number of robberies and extortion offences, the growth of a cold-blooded gun culture is poisoning the quality of everyone's life. It is no consolation that the statistics show the number of murders and manslaughters between April and June was down, compared to the same period last year.

If kidnappers, extortionists and burglars could be surveyed by, say, the Economic and Social Research Institute, they would probably say that recession has forced them to intensify their activities.

It seems obvious that a greater garda presence on the streets would help reduce such opportunist "recessionary" crimes as burglary and muggings and there are more gardai in the force than ever before.

But the numbers switched to frontline duty have been so low that a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General earlier this year called for "more effective verification of the extent of replacement".

Whatever problems need to be overcome to replace garda bureaucrats with civilians, the contribution to public peace of mind would make it well worthwhile.

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