The Northern Ireland Office today published the Research and Statistical Bulletin (PDF) 1/2006 ‘Public Attitudes Towards Crime and Recovery of Assets by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) in Northern Ireland: Findings from the July 2005 Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey’. The following based on an analysis of 14 questions that were included in the July 2005 Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey, a personal interview survey of 1,148 adults living in private households throughout Northern Ireland. 60% of respondents thought recovery of significant sums of money would improve things for their community:
* Four fifths (80%) of those surveyed had heard/read something about ARA.
* Of those who had heard/read something about ARA, television was the main method of communication (80%).
* Approximately two thirds (64%) of those surveyed believe that ARA has acted in a way which is fair to all sections of the community.
* Nearly nine tenths (87%) of those surveyed agreed that ‘many people in Northern Ireland these days who are living of the proceeds of crime’.
* Over one fifth (21%) of those surveyed suspected that someone in their own neighbourhood had obtained a large part of their wealth from crime, while over two fifths (41%) of people believed that there were people living in their local community who had acquired a significant part of their wealth from crime.
* Almost nine tenths (89%) of respondents would react with some anger and concern if someone whose wealth had come largely from the proceeds of crime, moved into their immediate neighbourhood.
* More that four fifths (86%) of those surveyed agreed that ‘many criminals who go to jail manage to hang on to the proceeds of crime and are able to live a wealthy lifestyle when their prison sentence is over’.
* More than four fifths (83%) of those surveyed said that wealth confiscation and a prison sentence are equally important objectives in dealing with criminals.
* Almost three quarters (72%) of those surveyed thought that drug dealing financed serious or organised crime.
* The majority (91%) of respondents supported ARA’s power to act through civil courts to recover assets resulting from crime even if the person has not been convicted in the criminal courts. Over one third (36%) expressed concern that these powers could be abused.
* Over one quarter (26%) of respondents were concerned that people they knew could be unfairly targeted by ARA because of its powers.
* Six tenths of those surveyed (60%) thought that the recovery of significant sums of money would have a positive effect on their community.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty