The McDowell visit to Los Angeles, Chicago and New York came against the backdrop of a rash of gun related murders in Ireland linked to the country’s increasingly violent drug gangs.
McDowell, who is also Ireland’s deputy prime minister or t_naiste and is leader of the Progressive Democrats, the PDs, Fianna F_il’s partner in government, has found himself in the front line in recent months as the murderous use of guns by drug gangs has soared.
And a report of a study released during his U.S. tour showed that every Euro banknote circulating in Dublin and studied in the probe had tested positive for cocaine residue.
McDowell, who was accompanied on his visit by Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy and the secretary general of the Department of Justice, Sean Aylward, made Los Angeles his first port of call and that city’s police chief Bill Bratton his prime contact there.
McDowell was briefed by Bratton on the crime fighting technique developed by him and known as CompStat.
It’s a computer-based system that feeds a continuously updated flow of crime data to a police department, thus allowing the department to concentrate resources in a particularly crime-plagued area.
Speaking at a press conference in New York on the final day of his weeklong U.S. visit, McDowell said that CompStat was a technique that his department wanted to apply in Ireland.
As things currently worked, he said, crime statistics were being compiled and presented to him and top gardai every 18 months. As such, he said, the figures were history by the time they were read.
A better way, McDowell said, would be quarterly statistics alongside local police monitoring of crime on a weekly basis so that trends could be studied and resources allocated as needed.
“It might not seem like rocket science,” McDowell said, but the CompStat technique had “totally transformed” policing in major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles.
McDowell drew a distinction between the type of gangs in L.A., which, he said, were mainly neighborhood based, and gangs in Ireland that tended to be “top down” criminal enterprises.
McDowell said that Chicago, where he met with the Windy City’s police chief, Superintendent Philip Cline, was “a little more like Ireland” than Los Angeles in terms of policing.
In Chicago, where he also met with Mayor Richard Daley, McDowell was shown how portable cameras are being used to battle crime,
In New York, McDowell met with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes.
He said that Hynes had outlined his system of coordinating the borough’s response to cases of domestic violence as well as his alternative to prison programs.
McDowell said that the Hynes presentation had been “very impressive” and that there was a lot that Ireland could learn from the district attorney’s efforts.
McDowell, in New York, met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
He told reporters that, based on the meetings in all three cities, Commissioner Conroy would be working on an Irish version of CompStat.