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Sunday 25 August 2019

Anti-social behaviour rise blights communities

Department says gardai, parents and schools all have a role in deterring young offenders

FERAL teens: There has been a rise in ‘disorderly conduct’, which takes in public-order offences. Stock picture
FERAL teens: There has been a rise in ‘disorderly conduct’, which takes in public-order offences. Stock picture
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

A worrying rise in anti-social behaviour in communities around the country last year was fuelled by a surge in thuggery and harassment in the second half of 2018.

A Sunday Independent crime study shines a light on the delinquency blighting Irish society.

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The research shows a growing trend in most crime categories linked to abuse of alcohol, the carrying of weapons and robberies over the past two years.

It is the rises in harassment, robberies and disorderly conduct in the second half of 2018 that will be of most concern to communities and gardai investigating assaults, weapons offences and robbery.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said parents and schools had a key role to play in tackling the problem.

"An Garda Siochana will continue to tackle these problems head-on - but in doing so, they need cooperation. Specifically in relation to young offenders, it is also up to us society, particularly the parents and guardians of our young, to ensure that children are raised to be respectful and law-abiding," he told the Sunday Independent.

"These lessons begin in the home, are further reinforced in our schools and then by wider society in general. We must all work together to ensure that such behaviour is never normalised and is tackled immediately."

A Sunday Independent analysis of Central Statistics Office and garda figures reveals 96,952 crimes linked to anti-social behaviour were reported last year across 10 key categories.

Our research showed startling increases in the second half of last year, compared to the same period in 2017, including:

l A 14pc increase in harassment and related offences between July and December 2018.

l A 14pc jump in "robbery from the person".

l An 8pc rise in "disorderly conduct" - a category that includes violent disorder, public-order offences and drunkenness.

l A 4pc increase in crime categories involving offensive weapon offences.

l A 3pc rise in categories including "other assaults" and shoplifting.

These figures are reflected in overall increases in these categories across all last year but the surge in the second half of the year is concerning because experts have warned anti-social behaviour is linked to periods of good weather and young people being on school holidays.

Gardai said they were working with communities to tackle harassment and trying to prevent distress, fear and intimidation caused by public disorder. "Operations such as Operation Irene, run across the Dublin region each summer, demonstrate the commitment of An Garda Siochana to tackle head-on issues such as public disorder, underage drinking, criminal damage and other related matters at identified hot spots, including beaches, parks and public transport in Dublin," said a garda spokesman.

Urban areas were particularly badly hit last summer, with spells of good weather leading to increased loutish behaviour on beaches near cities, towns and on public transport.

Fianna Fail has previously raised concerns about the issue and has said that current legislation "is not fit for purpose".

While occurrences of petty crimes such as vandalism and fireworks offences decreased last year, the rise in violent crimes is more worrying.

Darragh O'Brien, Fianna Fail TD for Dublin Fingal, said that further action was needed to prevent anti-social behaviour.

"We had major issues in my area last Halloween and they tend to occur around the school holidays with gangs of youths engaging in very intimidating behaviour," he said.

"Over Halloween we had a series of muggings and 15 assaults in one night between Portmarnock and Malahide.

"Mobile phones and jackets were stolen from people and a group of teenagers were held against their will at Portmarnock beach while the gang went through their phones, checked out their Facebook profiles and told them, 'We know who you are, we know where you live'.

"The gardai have been very good but they are short on resources and need more numbers to tackle issues like this," he said.

Garda numbers currently stand at 14,000 but the Department of Justice said it had committed to having 15,000 in place by 2021.

"Garda visibility is very important and this Government remains committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime," a spokesman said.

Sunday Independent

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