Gun feuds rise while cocaine use falls
The term of the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, has just been extended by two years. While seen as an effective officer who is across his brief, making the most of reduced resources, Callinan has also had the good fortune to be in office at a time that crime is falling.
Recorded crime peaked in 2008 and has reduced yearly since, with the overall drop at 13 per cent to the end of 2011. Homicide and gun crime have both almost halved, while drug crime is down by more than 25 per cent. Burglary is the only crime to buck the recent falling trends. Public-order offences, sex crimes, assaults, thefts and others are all down. While the received wisdom is that crime rises in recession, this is not happening in many countries.
Garda sources say that, with spending power down, alcohol and recreational drug consumption have fallen, leading to a drop in crimes linked to the drugs trade, including gun crime, and offences by drunk people, such as public disorder and street violence.
However, there are clear signs that gangland crime, in particular, is not ready to pack up and disappear. In 2008 the value of drugs seized across the State exceeded €100 million. In 2009 it fell to €42 million, and €28 million in 2010. Last year it bounced back to €89.5 million, and this year’s seizures to September were €90 million. The value of total drug seizures for 2012 will be in line with those record boomtime levels, but this doesn’t mean organised crime is stronger than ever.
Cocaine trade drove the growth in gangland crime in the boom and remains depressed. A lot of the feuding that went with it, in the Dublin suburbs of Finglas, Blanchardstown, Coolock, Crumlin and Drimnagh and in parts of Limerick, has eased. But in recent years cannabis grow houses have increased exponentially; the vastly increased seizures of cannabis have bolstered an otherwise ailing drugs trade.
Most of these operations are run by Chinese and Vietnamese gangs. And while the established feuding between Irish gangs has fallen off, a super feud between the Real IRA and a number of gangs in Dublin has taken over, leading to a number of murders in recent years, with efforts by the gangs to resist RIRA extortion demands spawning significant violence. The shooting dead of a key Real IRA figure, Alan Ryan, in Dublin in September and the killing of the veteran criminal Eamon Kelly nearly four weeks ago significantly escalated hostilities. In Garda security briefings that Minister Alan Shatter gets now, this dispute will dwarf everything else.
With 100 Garda stations to close and Garda numbers to fall to 13,000 in 2013, any surge in that feud or other gangland violence will see Shatter under extreme pressure.
A black-market trade has also emerged in drugs banned just over two years ago in anti-head shop legislation, and ecstasy is showing a resurgence, with a number of deaths reported from both in recent months.