Proposed changes will lead to increased juvenile crime

Community ran Justice Youth Diversion Projects are a valuable crime prevention measure that make communities safer by diverting young people from crime and anti-social behaviour, towards being responsible young adults engaged in and respecting their own communities.

Year on year, community ran youth diversion projects have resulted in reduced numbers of young people being prosecuted and reduced numbers of incidents or crimes being committed by young people.

From January 2019 the Government proposes to no longer fund local community run youth diversion services and to instead fund programmes on a Garda Divisional basis only.

For Dublin Central, this means youth diversion services that operate locally will be replaced by a centrally managed remote service located somewhere in Garda DMR West Division which stretches all the way from Cabra to Rathcoole.

Unless the Government reconsiders and recognises the value of local community ran youth diversion services the existing local community ran youth diversion projects will close.

Mary, who is a founding Director of Cabra Justice Youth Diversion Project, “Step Up” said, “For more than ten years Cabra’s ‘Step Up’ programme has successfully engaged “at risk” young people, diverted them away from criminality and supported them towards responsible personal development and integration in our community.

“Our Step-Up project actively targets “at risk” young people to engage them in preventative rehabilitative work. These are a cohort of young people who are often disengaged from their community and so can be extremely difficult to reach.  However, with the local knowledge and a strong network of community contacts these young people have been reached and engaged in the programme.

“Cabra’s Step Up programme is fully integrated with local Gardaí, Juvenile Liaison Officers, local schools, Community Youth Services and Family Resource and Community Policing Forum organisations in Cabra.

Replacing Community-led, locally based Justice Youth Diversion Projects with a service delivered by a Garda division will change the focus from preventative interventions that divert young people from crime and towards a prosecutorial model that criminalises young people.  It will inevitably lead to increased crime in our communities and increased criminalisation of young people.

Mary added, “The only apparent logic for changing to a new model of divisional delivery can be to conform to the governments model of centralised delivery of services and to facilitate the privatisation of same.

“The reality is that steering away from local, preventative, diversionary Justice Youth Services will most likely lead to increased crime in local communities where there are already insufficient Gardaí on the ground to meet current policing demands.

“There appears to be no understanding of the adverse impact this is likely to have on the outcomes for “at risk” young people or for the wider community which values the reduction in crime the service has delivered.

“No tangible evidence whatsoever had been offered to demonstrate any potential benefit to adopting a divisional approach.

“Making our community safer through the prevention of crime must remain our priority.”

“I have raised our concerns with the Gardaí and I am calling on the Minister for Justice to stop this proposal and to engage with community-led youth diversion programmes like Cabra “Step Up” to prevent and reduce crime in our community. ”