Action plan for Ringsend Crime

The tide may be turning on local crime.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver Stock Photography).

By Peter McNamara

Over the last few months there have been increased reports of crime and anti-social behaviour in Ringsend and Irishtown. The trend began last September, with the all too familiar run-up to Hallowe’en. Since then, vandalism, intimidation, criminal damage, and even break-ins, have been steadily rising in these two localities. 

When it became clear that something had to be done, a meeting of the Community Safety Forum was held on Wednesday March 15th. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Spellman Centre, Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre, Dublin City Council, an Garda Síochána, as well as residents from the local community. Thankfully, residents left feeling reassured. 

For one thing there will be four extra community Gardaí for the Ringsend and Irishtown area. Along with this, a Youth Diversion Outreach programme has also been set up at the Spellman Centre. 

This programme, organised and run by dedicated local social worker Sueann Moore, is designed to engage with those young people who may drift towards anti-social behaviour out of boredom or frustration.

Such programmes have enjoyed great success in defusing similar anti-social problems in other areas of Dublin. Reports are that young people are already attending well and engaging positively.

A two-tiered problem 

Based on the incidents reported, and the activity residents have witnessed, it would seem that the issue of crime in Ringsend and Irishtown has two distinct elements. On the one hand, there are minor incidents and disturbances, thought to be committed by idle children and teenagers. On the other, there have been break-ins – many in the Stella Gardens area – carried out with what appears to be the help of organised surveillance and scams. 

Ringsend and Irishtown are not unfamiliar with anti-social behaviour and disturbance. According to residents, however, the mood has turned in the last few months. Incidents are happening more frequently. More damage is being done. Larger gangs of children and teenagers have been seen roaming the streets and parks. The Spar shop on Thorncastle Street is the subject of regular theft and trouble. 

While certainly a nuisance, and at times an outright affront, these incidents have yet to boil over into a serious problem. The break-ins are another matter. There have been frequent break-ins in Stella Gardens and in other areas of Ringsend and Irishtown. Unfortunately, these crimes appear somewhat organised, as people have reported seeing suspicious individuals monitoring streets and houses, and criminals being whisked away by waiting dark cars.

Bicycles are also being stolen more often. In some cases, bikes are being taken from sheds and other enclosed places, which again suggests that thieves are becoming more calculated and determined. 

In January, some residents identified what they worried was a bogus charity/recycling collection scam. Leaflets were distributed inviting people to leave out old household furniture/electronics for resale or recycling by a charity group. This group, however, came around suspiciously late in the evening.

It is believed the leaflets may have been a way to determine what houses were occupied or not, and that the electronics/furniture were never bound for a charitable cause. There were also reports of bogus Eir customer service teams calling around Ringsend, again looking to see what houses were occupied, and what residents were perhaps vulnerable. 

If you have your doubts about a collection, or utilities service-person, ask for identification before granting them access to your home. And if in doubt, lock up, and inform the Gardaí. 

Setting up a neighbourhood watch 

Along with social workers and community Gardaí, ordinary residents are making efforts to bring these problems under control. Anthony O’Reardon, a proud Ringsender, decided to play his part and set up a secret Facebook community page. 

“I saw that people were concerned,” he tells me, “so I thought I’d do something. The Facebook group is just a place to share information, and get some support and advice. It’s a secret group, to keep things confidential. It’s not about naming-and-shaming, or anything like that, and I don’t take an active role posting things. I just see what people are saying.”

He’s confident things can be turned around, but reckons it’ll take collective action.  

“Compared to this time last year,” he says, “there is much more awareness and involvement from the community. And anyone from the area, or anyone with elderly relatives living here, is welcome to join the Facebook community group. It’s a large group, and sometimes it nice to know someone else is out there.”

One thing he’s been looking into is setting up small neighbourhood watch groups. 

“It’s something I posted on the Facebook group,” says O’Reardon. “It’s something I’m interested in doing. If a group of four or five people were to take a stroll now and then, and if they saw something or someone suspicious, they could ask them something like, ‘do you need help?’ or ‘are you looking for someone?’ You need not be overly intimidating. But that kind of thing can be quite effective for moving people along, and letting them know there’s a proactive community.”

Aside from that, Anthony suggests that if you see anything suspicious, make a note of it. If you’re worried about a vulnerable neighbour, consider calling in to see how they’re getting on. “But make sure you don’t go at anyone or anything alone,” he adds. “People should never endanger themselves.” 

As far as the more serious crimes go, that’s an issue for the Gardaí: burglars simply have to be caught. When it comes to the petty theft and vandalism, O’Reardon reckons part of the problem might be good kids forming bad groups. 

“Parents need to be aware of where their kids are,” he says, “and who they’re with. This could all be a passing phase. Things might quickly improve with the right approach.”

A quarterly Community Safety Forum

Unfortunately, up to now, there are reports that the Gardaí have not been as helpful as they could be. Often calls are met with a slow response, if there’s any response at all. The four additional community Gardaí might be coming in the nick of time.

Due to the success of the recent Community Safety Forum meeting, there are plans to hold a forum meeting every quarter. In that way, the community and the Gardaí can check-in with one another, and identify problems long before they get out of hand. At the recent meeting there was also encouraging engagement from local businesses, especially those affected by theft and vandalism. By increasing their own security, and keeping closer community ties, businesses can help deter and identify troublemakers. 

With more Gardaí and social programmes, and with proactive residents, parents, and businesses, the problem of crime looks set to be tackled on every front. Hopefully things will settle down soon.

The Youth Diversion Outreach Group meets every second Wednesday evening at the Spellman Centre. Anyone interested in joining can contact the centre on (01) 667 7666. 

To join the secret community Facebook group you need to be invited by an existing member. It’s very likely your neighbours or friends are members, and can invite you in.