Despite ramped-up talk of community policing, councillors have long said that turn-out to policing meetings across the city has been poor.
In particular, they’ve raised concerns about the effectiveness of Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) – set up in 2005 as fora where An Gardaí Síochána, local communities, and elected representatives can engage on issues around policing and crime.
There may be changes down the line. The Department of Justice is reviewing how the system of Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) works, said Deputy Chief Executive Brendan Kenny at Monday’s monthly meeting of Dublin City Council.
Councillors at the meeting in City Hall recapped some of the issues that they think are stymieing local engagement on issues around community safety: from concerns around intimidation, to empty seats at the table.
Fear of Blowback
Some people don’t come along to JPC meetings as they fear they’d be recorded, said Fianna Fáil Councillor Daithí de Róiste. “And it would go back into the communities.”
Social Democrats Councillor Tara Deacy said that people in her area, Kimmage-Rathmines, were reluctant to join the committees because of intimidation if they talk about particular crimes.
“People say there are problems in communities. Engaging with the Gardaí is the best way to deal with these things,” said Fine Gael Councillor Paddy McCartan. “I wouldn’t like to think that people feel intimidated.”
At the meeting, councillors were agreeing the list of members for the JPCs for the next five years.
Kenny’s report showed 17 unfilled seats for community and business representatives in the Central, South Central, North West, and South East council administrative areas.
There are six JPCs in Dublin. One deals with Dublin city as a whole, and five area JPC committees deal with different clusters of neighbourhoods.
Some JPCs don’t meet as much others do.
De Róiste, the Fianna Fáil councillor, says his committee for the South Central Area meets regularly.
But McCartan, of Fine Gael, said there hasn’t been a JPC in his area, the South East, since the elections in May.
A meeting before Christmas didn’t happen, he said, after Monday’s meeting. “I think a big part of the problem was that we didn’t have, what was highlighted, the issue of community representation.”
Fianna Fáil Councillor Paul McAuliffe, the lord mayor, asked Kenny, the deputy chief executive, if records showing TDs’ attendance at JPCs could be presented to the council.
“It would be an ad-hoc attendance at best amongst the local JPCs from Oireachtas members,” said de Róiste.
De Róiste says that when the JPC for his area was established, they wrote to all TDs and senators in the area inviting them to take part.
In fairness, Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Independent Maureen O’Sullivan attended well, he said. “The others, it wasn’t even that they didn’t attend, they didn’t respond at all.”
McAuliffe also asked Kenny how they would more actively involve the chairs of the area JPCs with the wider city JPC.
“I think it is one of the few committees where the chair of the sub-committee isn’t a member of the overall committee,” said McAuliffe.
In other words, issues don’t feed upwards from the area JPCs to the city-wide one. So they’re neglected, he says.
“The issue of scrambler bikes comes up at every area JPC, but wouldn’t automatically come up at the city-wide JPC because the chair isn’t responsible for reporting into the overall committee,” he said.
Kenny said that JPCs are obviously important. “But I feel like they have gotten a bit stale over the last few years.”
There was a very poor interest from local community representatives for all of them, he said.
The Department of Justice is reviewing the whole structure, he says. “So we will see what changes will come.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that it is currently preparing a Policing and Community Safety Bill “to set out a new governance and oversight framework for policing”.
That’s in line with the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing, they said.
The bill is “expected to redefine policing to include prevention of harm and place an obligation on relevant state agencies to cooperate with An Garda Síochána in relation to the broader issue of community safety”.
It’s looking at the best model to do that, they said – so reviewing all the existing structures including JPCs.