Given the huge concern over crime throughout the country, many people have been discussing possible ways of solving and counteracting the problem of major criminality. Back in the 1980s, Spike Island Prison was opened and then closed by the then Minister for Justice, Micheal McDowell, and many people are suggesting that, perhaps, the older prisons should be reopened to accommodate a certain type of criminal.
However, it has been stated in the past that the cost to the State of a prison officer, including a certain level of overtime, could be in the region of €100,000 per year. At those wages, it would be difficult in these straightened times for the Government to recruit new prison officers due to high costs.
Yet crime still rises. In Britain, they brought in a private sector firm, Group 4 Security, to assist in running prisons and the current Minister, Dermot Ahern, may well look at a similar private sector style solution especially as Group 4 already operates in the country.
The Government should surely investigate and arrive at economic solutions to facilitate keeping more people in prison because, at present, there are too many convicted criminals out on bail many of whom continue to offend.
In the case of juveniles, there are not sufficient places for them to be facilitated and they are often left free with cautions and fines by the courts simply because there are no custodial places available.
Fine Gael and Labour should be coming up with solutions rather than talking tough on crime, especially after the recent Limerick murder when a totally innocent man was gunned down because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At present, sentences cannot be fully served due to lack of space so where are the serious criminals to be incarcerated? To be serious about solving crime means providing enough spaces in new prisons to accommodate the problem. More prison places will not solve the problem but it could get the worst offenders back in prison where they belong rather than threatening society.
The Traveller feuds in Waterford have made life very difficult for all concerned and, if the threat of jail was more likely, the same level of feuding might not be taking place.
The drug scene is also a difficult nut to crack with more and more dealers trading. Last weekend in Dublin we met a taxi man who was unwittingly involved in a Garda drugs bust when he unknowingly transported a dealer late at night who had been under surveillance.
Two weeks before he had transported guests at a party home safely. Later, one of their friends was shot on the street by a rival gang in another area of the city and all were involved in the drugs trade. This taxi driver could have been innocently caught up in those violent circumstances. At the same time, this family man has had to take his daughter out of university in Limerick because the costs are too high and he does not earn enough to maintain her further education.
He was just one person who believed that places like Spike Island should be re-opened and more criminals should be taken off the street. A Dublin inner city man himself, he knows the real world but, like many others, he wonders if our politicians really understand the criminals. Less talk and more solutions, please.
The courts are conducting extra sessions in order to cope with the growing amount of cases. More deterrents, such as likely prison sentences, might deliver better results.
Waterford Chamber of Commerce is making a special effort this year to highlight the need to support Waterford and local jobs. The Carousel in John Roberts Square attracted great interest last weekend and, with some special events planned for Christmas, appeals are going out requesting our citizens to shop local. In Dublin, there is a drift north of the border to avail of the VAT reduction with places like Newry doing a roaring trade. However, with money more tight this year, surely, it doesn’t make sense to go to the expense of traveling plus all the other additional costs such as overnight accommodation.
The important message is ‘Support your local retailers this Christmas’.
Last weekend, the cold weather may have put off some potential shoppers in Waterford and surrounding areas but this weekend we would hope that they will travel in numbers not only to the city but to Tramore, Dungarvan and Carrick-on-Suir as well. There will be some reductions in parking costs to make the city centre more attractive.