KNIFE CRIME should be treated as a public health issue, like a virus, if countermeasures are to be effective, a senior ex-garda has warned.
Retired Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy argues that knife related crime – which has been on a steep incline in recent years, especially among youths – will continue to grow out of control if a change in approach is not adopted.
Earlier this month, Justice Minister Helen McEntee met with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to discuss an escalation of violent incidents, particularly in Dublin, where a series of unrelated stabbings took place in just one week.
Speaking to The Irish Sun, former Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy emphasised the importance of community measures as a vital part of a bigger picture, supplementing garda operations and tackling the problem at an earlier stage – when preventative action can be more effective.
He said: “If we ignore knife crime it will spread and there needs to be a longterm strategy put in place. This isn’t going to happen overnight.”
Mr Leahy – who was on active duty at the height of the Kinahan-Hutch feud – also stressed the importance of ensuring that community gardaí had the resources and tools at their disposal to clamp down on this kind of violent crime.
The seasoned crimefighter retired last summer following 38 years of service but remains active as a civilian in the fight against blade crime; drawing upon his wealth of experience to make suggestions from the side-lines.
He said: “We need to understand, isolate and contain knife crime. We need to treat violent crime as a virus. We need to look at other models such as Scotland.
“The mindset of the gardaí will be very important in this process and the excellent relationships with the community that are already in place need to be reinforced.
“When we had the ERU on the streets at the start of the Kinahan and Hutch feud people welcomed our response because they knew we were there to save lives," he explained.
“It’s now essential that the frontline gardaí are given all the resources from their managers to ensure that they can deliver the type of policing that the community requires.
“During the feud the community came out and supported us and they never let us down — I’ve no doubt they will do so again."
Other cities such as London have also experienced a worrying escalation in knife crime in recent years. In 2019, then Home Secretary Sajid Javid suggested that a similar approach to that recommended by Mr Leahy, treating it as a public health issue, be adopted.
Mr Leahy emphasised the importance of education in preventing knife crime, arguing : “It’s no good the gardaí going in and saying they’re going to lock people up because people don’t respond to threats.
“But if you have someone speaking, even the most hardened of people carrying knives will respond because they would never want anything to happen to their mammies — they always go home to mammy.
“I also think that knife crime isn’t just associated with the north inner city — it could happen anywhere.”