Victims count the cost as teenage louts wreak havoc
A gang of young hooligans is running riot and gardai don't seem to be able to stop them, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan
'WE KNOW who did it, but . . ." I don't think there is anyone who has been mugged, had their home broken into or suffered an act of vandalism, who hasn't heard those words of cold comfort from the attending gardai.
I have had this said to me after burglaries at my home, and when I was robbed four years ago while waiting at a notorious set of traffic lights at the end of Clonliffe Road in Dublin at 10.30am. Needless to say, I never heard another word. It is the feeling of complete helplessness that brings out our frustration and rage.
Nowadays, when everyone has less money, it is even more difficult to cope with the expense of repairing the damage to your home or car, apart from how violated you feel.
Over the past few months, the residents of Dun Laoghaire and Monkstown have been plagued by a gang of young hooligans, aged from about 11 up to 14 or 15 who are causing thousands of euros worth of damage in smashed car windscreens, broken wing mirrors and the like. These are the sort of young lads that 40 years ago, the legendary Garda 'Lugs' Brannigan might have sorted out with a belt around the earhole.
In the late Eighties and Nineties, we had a similar type of problem, mainly blamed on gangs from a particularly rundown flat development in Mounttown known as Beirut! I suppose we lived with it, the gang grew up and moved on, and Beirut was eventually razed to the ground.
All of this came flooding back to me recently when the doorbell rang in the early hours and a garda was on the doorstep. The windscreen of my car had been smashed, probably with a baseball bat. I had heard a noise earlier and looked out to see these young hooligans going down the road. We all know them to see, as they head down to the local park beside us at night with cans of beer in bags. Later, duly fired up, they wend their way back up our quiet road.
We were not the only ones to suffer that particular night as they wreaked havoc all along their route. The garda was very nice and reassuring, and gave me his card, telling me to phone immediately if I saw anything else at any time.
My student son works in a local shop a few nights a week. One evening when this gang was hanging around outside, drinking, the young manager went out and said they would have to move on. One girl spat at him and another one threw a bottle at his head.
My son was in the garden recently cutting the grass and the gang passed by, muttering to him, "Nice house, man". The Wire springs to mind.
Then last week, after their little soiree in Vesey Park, the gang left a trail of damage, beer cans and glass, from Vesey Place to Knapton Road, and on to Mounttown Road, shattering windscreens and wing mirrors, vandalising some 14 or so cars, including ours again, in their wake. The next day, we had a visit from two very nice gardai. "What the hell is going on?" I asked.
The amount of things being stolen from cars in Dun Laoghaire all the time is huge, I was told. One of the gardai said the young vandals are all on stuff from the head shop in Dun Laoghaire. "It is dreadful stuff," she said, adding that she had met heroin addicts who told her that they gave back stuff they bought in the head shops it had such a terrible effect on them.
"Phone Garda B tonight at 10pm, he is handling these cases," the two gardai told me. I later realised that in fact not only was one windscreen totally shattered but that when we washed off the smashed bottles and debris from the windscreen of our second car, there was damage to it also.
I phoned Garda B at the appointed time that night and was told he was not on duty so I asked for Garda A, the one who had given me his card after the previous attack. I needed to notify them of the damage to the second car. I left my number -- no call back. I phoned again the next day.
"Who's calling?" I gave my name. "Hold on, please." I was then told Garda B was out and Garda A on his break. I know, I know, hold back on the jokes about sirens blaring as they rush out for the doughnuts. Numbers were taken again and 'written in the book'. No call back from either garda.
The final crunch came at the weekend when we saw our bunch of hooligans strolling down the middle of the road, bags of cans in hand, for their weekend outing. Bear in mind they are all under age for drinking and also are sitting drinking in a public place. I phoned the gardai in Dun Laoghaire and asked for both Garda A and Garda B -- again no joy. I told the garda who answered the phone what I was ringing about, that I had now phoned a few times, and that we were likely to have trouble again that night. Perhaps they might be on the lookout in the area later on.
"I only take the calls," the garda told me. "Well, I am notifying you of the possibility of trouble again tonight," I said. "Phone back if you see them again," he replied.
Charming! Throughout the conversation I could hear jovial chat and laughter in the background.
I feel so let down by our local gardai. It is not good enough to just make a list of people who have had their cars vandalised and say "here's your number for your insurance company".
Gardai have been saying for years that when they take these types to court, the courts are so lenient that they are out on the streets again before the gardai are back at the station. I accept this must be very frustrating.
However, it is also very frustrating for the victims to just have their name and details of damage taken, and it is all left to the insurance company to pick up the tab. They will only cover it once or twice. There is the danger too of gardai becoming blasé and inured to these happenings. It is outrageous that a crowd of youngsters can hold an area to ransom, thumbing their noses at everybody, confident the gardai can do nothing about them.
Is it not time for Minister Dermot Ahern, who made blasphemy a criminal offence and who wants to introduce a charge on financial transactions, to introduce a Bill making the parents of these young people responsible for the costs of the damage and havoc their children create?
I seem to recall some government waffler talking about Zero Tolerance -- where is he now?