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As local Councillor Daithí Doolan tells it, the past month in Cherry Orchard has been tough. Gun attacks, robbed cars, burnt out cars, attacks on houses, anti-social behaviour. That’s bad enough.
But making it worse, he says, was the failure of gardaí to respond promptly.
At a council meeting earlier this month, he blamed “a serious lack of resources” and – along with other councillors – called for a meeting with senior gardaí to discuss the issue.
Cuts to Resources
A five-year freeze on garda recruitment, as well as other cuts, was imposed after the country went bust in 2008.
Templemore has since reopened its doors to new recruits, but this hasn’t been enough to compensate for the numbers who have retired. In January 2015, there were 85 gardaí located in Ballyfermot Garda Station, down 12 percent from 97 in March 2010.
Gardaí who are not available for normal duty – due to sick leave, maternity leave, pregnancy or a career break – are also included in these figures, so the numbers available to attend crimes may be lower. The force has also made four unit rosters into five, by reducing staff at supposed off-peak times.
The Garda Press Office said it could not disclose the number of gardaí available for normal duty for “operational and security reasons”.
Doolan described an incident, which occurred on July 6, in which he says a group was vandalising an abandoned house in Croftwood Gardens. When local residents contacted the gardaí, they were told that they could not respond, he says.
They contacted the councillor in an attempt to prevent the council house from being destroyed. Doolan says he rang gardaí three times, to no avail, and senior Dublin City Council management also called to encourage a response.
According to Doolan, some neighbours went out to protect the house, but none of those contacted wanted to comment on the incident.
Eventually, council staff went to the house with the support of gardaí.
An Increase in Crime?
This incident was the climax to a weekend of noisy parties, fighting youths and joyriding, which saw bus routes diverted from the area on Sunday night.
Serious crime isn’t unknown in the area. Even children have been victims. A six-year-old boy was shot in the neck last June, but was lucky enough to survive.
This June, another child and her mother had a near-miss as a robbed car drove on the footpath outside St Ultan’s Primary School on Cherry Orchard Avenue.
Staff at the school said that the incident, which took place on June 30, was the second of its kind to have occurred in just a few months.
“It is unacceptable not to have a garda car in Ballyfermot,” says Doolan, who says gardaí failing to respond has been a regular problem in recent years.
A Dublin-Wide Problem?
It is not just Doolan who receives calls from panicked constituents when the gardaí are unable to respond promptly to an emergency. Daithí de Róiste, Fianna Fáil councillor for the same area, recalls “countless incidences” like this.
This is a widespread occurrence across the city, he says. “You hear horror stories right across where gardaí are working at the pin of their collar,” he adds.
Every division in the country has seen a cut in garda numbers. The Garda Commissioner has said that numbers should not fall below 13,000, but recently they stood at 12,772. Dublin North numbers have been cut from 832 in 2010 to 678 in 2015 (18.5 percent).
“I would acknowledge, there are certain times of the day and week when there are difficulties in getting a garda,” says Fine Gael councillor for Ballymun Noel Rock – who himself was attacked on the streets of Dublin this week.
Though Rock says there have been times when he called gardaí and they arrived three minutes later, constituents have complained to him about not getting responses at weekends, or getting slow responses to burglaries in progress. He blames the situation on Fianna Fáil, for stopping recruitment.
Councillors across the city have received regular complaints about gardaí not responding, or not responding fast enough. Sinn Féín Councillor Chris Andrews says it is an issue “regularly and consistently” in the south-east inner city. “Even businesses are having problems,” he adds.
People Before Profit Councillor John Lyons reports the same kinds of issues in his area, Beaumont and Donaghmede. In Crumlin and Kimmage, it isn’t uncommon for break-ins not to receive responses until the next day, according to Sinn Féín Councillor Ray McHugh.
Ruairí McGinley, an independent representing Rathgar and Rathmines, was the only councillor contacted who hadn’t received any complaints on the issue.
All the councillors quoted in this article praised the work of gardaí who are on the ground, and blamed a lack of resources for their problems with response.
Senior Garda management “is satisfied that a full and comprehensive policing service continues to be delivered and that current structures in place meet the requirement to deliver an effective and efficient policing service,” Sergeant Tony Connaughton commented, on behalf of the Garda Press Office. Garda closely monitor the allocation of resources based on crime trends and policing need, he added.
It’s true that – with the exception of burglary, theft and fraud – the numbers of recorded offences for most crimes have decreased since 2010, according to the CSO. It’s unclear why there’s a disconnect between what constituents are telling councillors and these story that these statistics are telling.
“They are coming out and celebrating the decrease in crime when it’s probably that people have lost faith and aren’t reporting it,” said North Inner City independent Councillor Gary Gannon. He believes his constituents feel somewhat abandoned by the gardaí.