Families involved in crime in Limerick will be targeted in a new clampdown aimed at dramatically reducing the amount of organised crime in the troubled city.
Led by Limerick Regeneration Agency, the initiative will first identify the main families involved in anti-social behaviour and crime.
Then a group of state agencies, including gardaí, social welfare, the local authority and the HSE, will work together to address the problems these families are creating.
The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) will be brought in to examine how some households claiming social welfare can afford to drive top-of-the-range cars.
"There is a small group of families causing havoc. If a family have a big jeep or a Merc outside their front door but are claiming social welfare, that is something we will be looking at. The Criminal Asset Bureau will become involved when necessary," Brendan Kenny, CEO of Limerick's Regeneration Agency, told the Sunday Tribune.
"We have to show decent, law-abiding people that something is being done to tackle these families. We will also be coordinating support to the families affected by these troublesome families. It's an integrated approach to providing support to families in the area; part of that will be targeting the troublesome families. We will hit them from all sides. And it's not always the families you read about in the newspapers that are causing the problems."
Southside regeneration chief Brendan Hayden is in charge of the new initiative and will be meeting representatives from the various state agencies to discuss plans in the coming weeks.
In a separate development, Limerick city council took out advertisements in recent weeks seeking to hire a project manager to implement its "child tracking" system to identify at-risk children who are becoming gang-affiliated.
Once identified, attempts will be made to steer children away from this lifestyle and, in some cases, take children into the care of the state, as first revealed by this newspaper last year.
However, Kenny insisted that "the programme isn't geared at taking children into state care… that is a matter for the HSE. The idea is to track and monitor children who are at risk and steer them away from criminality. There is a problem with children under 12 running wild. In some cases, their families are involved in criminality. In other cases, they are not."
The "child tracking" system was developed by Limerick's regeneration agencies, gardaí, HSE and the local authority. Its official name is the Limerick Assessment of Needs System (LANS), an interagency child welfare-based information-sharing system.
The Sunday Tribune has also learned that construction plans for the new housing developments in Limerick's four regeneration areas have been delayed because of the economic downturn.
"In January 2008, we had a hope that by 2009 some construction work on the new housing developments would have begun. But because of the economic downturn, it's inevitable there will be some delays," Kenny said. "It will be 2011 before the houses for the families are coming on stream."