Dublin Pilots a Broader Approach to Tackling Community Safety Issues in North Inner-City

To work on community safety issues in an area stretching from Stoneybatter in the west to the Dublin Port in the east, the council is piloting a broader approach.

The new local community safety partnership for the area, one of three being piloted nationwide, was launched last July. It plans to host residents’ meetings in 10 neighbourhoods in the area in the coming months.

“The goal is to improve feelings of safety among residents and visitors to the north inner-city,” says a spokesperson.

The new structure has taken over in this part of the city from the old joint policing committees (JPCs), which still operate elsewhere in the Dublin.

The Probation Service, the HSE and Tusla are invited to the partnership, which was not the case with the old JPCs, as well as Gardaí, business people, members of the public, community representatives, councillors and council managers.

The Dublin North Inner-City Community Safety Partnership has met twice so far, says chairperson Cormac Ó Donnchú.

“We’re at a very embryonic stage,” he says. “It’s been a challenging environment with Covid to be working on the establishment of such a broad-based community-engaged partnership.”

Councillors and a community representative say they welcome it as an improvement on the old JPCs. “It is a much more holistic approach,” says Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam.

What’s Changed?

Since 2006, Dublin has had joint policing committees (JPCs), where councillors, senior gardaí and community and business representatives have come together to discuss crime and safety in each of Dublin City Council’s administrative areas.

They have a larger JPC for the whole city, too.

In February 2020, councillors said they were concerned about a lack of engagement with the JPCs. Residents were reluctant to get involved because of intimidation, they said.

The local community safety partnership is a lot broader than the JPCs, including other agencies and more community leaders.

The partnership – which is supposed to meet each quarter – is made up of 24 people, including the Garda chief superintendent Patrick McMenamin, area councillors, the independent chairperson, a manager from Dublin City Council, Tusla, the HSE, the Probation Service, and the local drugs task force.

There are representatives too from the community and voluntary sector, including Noel Wardick, CEO of Dublin City Community Co-op, which represents 13 community development organisations in the inner-city.

Representatives from the youth and education sectors, several business representatives and residents also sit on the partnership.

The current two-year pilot is for an area that covers the north inner-city, including Dublin Port, East Wall, the Docklands, Ballybough, O’Connell Street, parts of Drumcondra and Stoneybatter.

The aim is to roll out a local community safety plan to improve safety and feelings of safety among residents and visitors to the north inner-city, says the spokesperson for the partnership.

The partnership will do that by reaching beyond policing, they said, and engaging with all the other groups.

“Achieving our goal will include visible Gardaí in communities, improved street lighting and cleaning, and safe places for children to play,” she says.

Wardick, of the Dublin City Community Co-op, says he is very happy to be part of it.

“It’s an attempt to make sure that all stakeholders in the north inner-city have a real voice in ensuring the safety and well being of the north inner-city,” he said.

Everyone, including residents from all backgrounds, local businesses, workers and visitors should all feel safe in the north inner-city, he says. It is up to the partnership to deliver that, he says.

Reaching Out

In May 2021, before it was launched, the partnershipran a first round of public consultation to help draw up its community safety plan. In September, it ran a youth cafe to try to get young people involved.

It also held a round of local neighbourhood meetings online in November, says Ó Donnchú, the chair, and is planning to do more residents’ meetings in person soon.

The partnership is looking for more residents to get involved in those meetings, he says, and anyone living or working in the north inner-city can do so by emailing [email protected].

The formal meetings of the partnership are quarterly and the next one is scheduled for 17 February. Sub-groups are expected to deal with specific issues, Ó Donnchú says.

Janet Horner, a Green Party councillor, was excited when the partnership launched, she said, seeing it as an innovative way to tackle the problems of the inner-city.

But so far there hasn’t been much action or many opportunities for people to feed in their ideas, Horner says.

If meetings couldn’t go ahead in person, it’s better to have them online, she says.

“It’s been six months so if people don’t start to feel like there is stuff happening, then people will start to disengage fairly soon.”

Horner, the Green Party councillor, says she also doubts about whether all groups within the catchment area are being engaged. The north inner-city is diverse, yet there appears to be little effort to involve new communities in the partnership, she says.

Getting It Right

Says Horner: “I really, really want this to work.”

“The idea of taking a more rounded holistic approach to solving criminality and the experience of crime is a good idea,” she says.

Building up youth intervention programmes to engage with young people who are involved in anti-social behaviour to divert them to productive activities could really work, she says.

Independent Councillor Cieran Perry says success depends on those involved. ““The approach is definitely excellent, whether you get the proper engagement from those outside agencies is the thing.”

Drug addiction is a health and social problem as well as a criminal issue, he says, so it makes sense to offer both social supports as well as policing responses.

The other big question is what the community safety plan ends up focusing on.

Perry says he welcomes all the initiatives to improve the environment in the north inner-city, he says, such as planting trees and greening. “The environment can and should be tackled.”

But there also needs to be a focus on tackling drug dealing and serious anti-social behaviour, which, he says, are primarily a policing issue. “I wouldn’t like to see any dilution of that understanding.”

Locals will judge the partnership’s success on whether it can tackle drug dealing, which he says is inextricably linked to serious organised crime in the area.

“People will look out their window and if there is open drug dealing going on then the partnership hasn’t worked,” he says.

Ó Donnchú agrees that is a major problem. “Open drug dealing in the north-east inner-city is a major issue of concern,” he says.

The community safety partnership will work with the HSE to signpost people to drug addiction services where possible, he says.

“Combine that with the work of An Garda Siochana to tackle the criminality in relation to the drug dealing itself,” he says.

There used to be outreach programmes in place to tackle that issue, and he is currently working with the HSE looking into the possibility of re-engaging those supports, he says.

Ó Donnchú says the partnership’s focus is trying to create a sustainable model for communication between communities and state services, he says. As well as addressing individual issues, such as anti-social behaviour in a specific area.

“Issues of community safety are not just the responsibility of the Gardaí,” he says. “We all have a responsibility to contribute to addressing issues as they are identified.”

The partnership wants to encourage residents to talk directly to Gardaí also, he says, hence their map with details of community gardaí for each part of the north inner-city it covers.

The partnership is due to meet with a successful community safety partnership from Derry, he says, to learn from them.

It is good that the approach is being piloted in the north inner-city, says Perry, the independent councillor, because it is probably one of the hardest areas to police and tackle drug dealing.

“If it is successful in that area it will be successful everywhere,” he says.

Author:

Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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