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“I asked The Corpo could they at least put cameras in here,” says Joseph Behan.
Behan is standing in his small, carpeted one-bed apartment in Cambridge Court, a council-owned housing complex in Ringsend.
Like other residents here, Behan – who is in his mid-fifties – says he doesn’t feel safe in the complex at the moment.
Two murders have taken place in the compound in the past, say residents and a local councillor. Possession are stolen a lot, and that there isn’t always somebody ready to respond to calls for help, they say.
They’ve a few suggestions as to what would make the complex safer: CCTV, better security for the entrance and a person on site all the time to ensure the welfare of those who live in the complex.
A spokesperson for Dublin City Council didn’t respond directly to several questions by email, but said staff would visit residents to talk about the issues they face.
Fear of Break-Ins
It’s too easy for people to wander into the complex, says Derek Murphy, 77, who also lives in Cambridge Court.
“I could take you down there now and say, ‘There’s a bike, now cycle out,’” says Murphy as his dog Dynamo sits by his side.
Outside Cambridge Court, the front gate swings open.
Behan says he has had his apartment broken into twice. Once, he got back from holiday to find somebody had been in his home.
“I took a clock off my ma before she passed away,” he says. It had sentimental value and intricate mechanisms.
“They smashed that up and took about sixty quid,” he says.
Murphy is an avid cyclist. He uses his bike up to three times a day, he says – walking the dog, doing the shopping, and clearing his head.
“I had a beautiful British Eagle, a really good bike,” he said.
“I had it chained to the cherry tree with a cable. And what did the bastards do? They tried to cut the chain using the crossbar and of course, the crossbar went,” he said.
The bike was written off. A few weeks ago, Murphy says that a 10kg kettlebell was stolen from outside his apartment, too.
Asking for Cameras
Murphy says that it was not always as bad as it is now.
“It has changed from residents just being a mix of old ladies. The types with grey beards that you wouldn’t cross,” he says.
Residents say they want more security to be brought in: CCTV cameras, and a lock on the front gate.
He asked the council if they could put in CCTV, but was told that there is not enough crime in the area to justify cameras, he says. (An official council responseto a councillor’s motion in 2016 also pointed to having to establish a need for it.)
Says Behan: “I asked how many more murders do we need here to justify cameras going in?”
A spokesperson for the council didn’t directly address queries as to whether it would put in CCTV cameras and a lock.
The council “is happy to deal directly with the residents of Cambridge Court on the issues raised”, a spokesperson said by email.
The local area housing officer and other relevant staff will visit the residents this week, said the council spokesperson.
Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn says that he hasput forward motions to the council, to try to get cameras installed in the complex. Other councillors have also flagged safety concerns.
Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne says she has had problems getting CCTV installed in other complexes in the area.
“We are fighting to get CCTV put in Markievicz House where there is a redevelopment going on,” says Byrne.
Councillors would have to pay for that out of what’s known as the discretionary fund though, she says. (That’s a pot of money that area councillors get to decide how to spend.)
Byrne says that the discretionary fund should be spent on nice community projects, rather than security.
Says Fine Gael Councillor Danny Byrne: “I would be supportive of the residents in terms of getting CCTV in there. People deserve to have peace at any time of day.”
Eyes on Site
In his kitchen, Murphy stirs a fresh cup of coffee as Dynamo paces around his feet.
A red string, about three-feet long, hangs from the ceiling beside the sink. “That’s the emergency string. You pull that if you need help,” Murphy says.
Falling is a regular occurrence for elderly residents in the complex, and there is not enough in place to deal with this, he says.
The other apartments in Cambridge Court all have similar strings hanging from the ceiling, he says.
“What good is that if you fall on the ground or in the hall?” Murphy says, as he imitates someone trying to reach for the chord that is too far away from his grasp.
A Dublin City Council spokesperson didn’t respond to queries about how effective the red cords are.
Murphy says he has had to pick five people up off the ground who have fallen in their apartments.
The complex does have a liaison officer, says Murphy, who is there to check in on residents and make sure they’re okay. But there can be periods when they’re off – and so nobody is there.
Behan says the same: “Don’t die on the Friday of a long weekend.”
A spokesperson for the council said it has a “locum officer” to cover periods of when the sheltered-housing liaison officer is on leave.
If the local officer isn’t available, the complex is covered by a sheltered-housing liaison officer from another complex with help from the project estate officer for the area, they said.
“We will be advising residents again in Cambridge Court of these arrangements and the relevant contact numbers,” they said.
Murphy said there used to be a night warden for the complex too, but that the role has since gone.
A spokesperson for the council didn’t respond to queries about that.