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Luas drivers and staff face threats and racist abuse

DRIVERS and staff on the Luas network were threatened almost 100 times last year, with racial taunts the most common form of abuse.

CCTV, security guards and patrols by gardai have been deployed by transport operators as they strive to combat a nationwide rise in anti-social behaviour.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) has warned the number of racist incidents appears to be increasing as the economic situation worsens.

"We're very concerned about racist abuse and other incidents experienced by frontline service providers such as people working on public transport," ICI spokeswoman Ruth Evans said.

There were just over 1,000 anti-social incidents reported on Irish Rail's DART and Commuter network during 2010. The variety of offences and unruly behaviour encountered included vandalism, drunken passengers, threats, abuse, littering, loitering and spitting.

This was a drop of 28pc on the number of incidents during 2009.

"The main reasons for the reduction would appear to be the revised hours, and the active patrolling of the security agents," a spokeswoman for Irish Rail confirmed. "Their visible presence has had a positive and preventative effect."

Luas operators Veolia Transport said gardai also regularly check stops and travel on the trams, while the STT security firm is paid to patrol both the Red line from the city centre to Tallaght and the Green line out to Sandyford.

Statistics shown to the Irish Independent showed there were 99 threats to Luas staff recorded last year -- 82 on the Red Line and 17 on the Green line. This was down from 154 the previous year. Over 90pc of threats to staff and passengers are verbal rather than physical.


The ICI, which is due to launch a research project in the area, warned official statistics relating to racism under-estimate the scale of the problem as many incidents go unreported.

Ms Evans added: "The immigrant council would very strongly urge anyone who experiences or witnesses a racist incident to report it."

There were a further 44 threats reported by passengers on Luas services, 34 incidents of theft, 204 cases of disorder on trams, 180 instances of disorder at stops and security guards dealt with 72 instances of drunken behaviour. The number of thefts and threats to passengers had fallen, while reports of disorder at stops had risen.

Bus Eireann said security measures meant "threatening behaviour" towards staff was rare, while Dublin Bus pointed out its CCTV systems on its fleet of 1,000 buses has "proven invaluable".

Irish Independent