Gardai in Laois are forced into ‘firefighting’ efforts to when it compes to youth crimed prevention a senior officer told a public meeting last week.
Speaking at the Joint Policing Committee in Mountmellick it also emerged that the designated officer assigned to working with young people in trouble with the law is responsible for the entire county..
Answering a query by Mountmellick Town Cllr Rosemary Whelan, Garda Inspector Martin Harrington said there was a JLO in Portlaoise that covered the county, but for some repeat offenders, it wasn’t until they turned 18 that Gardaí could “properly deal with them”.
The question was raised at a recent public Policing meeting in Mountmellick, where Inspt Harrington and Mountmellick’s Sgt Moore listened to local concerns about anti-social behaviour and underage drinking.
Brian Furlong, PRO of Mountmellick Sinn Féin, said they had conducted a survey that revealed the perception that Gardaí were “on the side” of juveniles.
Inspector Martin Harrington said they dealt with the same youngsters over and over again.
“We deal with them under the JLO scheme, over and over. In some cases we try to get them involved in youth scheme.
”For some it seems like we are just getting them to 18, so we can properly deal with them. Some get lucky, they get diverted. The really bad ones, we are doing a fire brigade (job) till they are 18,” he said.
“The JLO is the first point of contact. They go to the parents, and liaise with them, trying to put the child back on the straight and narrow. There are some projects running in Portlaoise and a lot of people are put right,” Inspt Harrington said.
Cllr Bobby Delaney partly blamed parents, referring to underage drinking at Smiths Field.
“We never talk about the parents who are giving these kids money. Then when you bring them home, they say ‘my son wouldn’t do that’”, he said.
A resident of College Avenue warned that a tragedy could occur.
“A lot of these people are very young, it’s only a matter of time before some young fella falls in the river drunk, or is thrown in,” he said.