Wednesday 20 February 2019

Violent girls and boys lead crime wave

Maeve Sheehan and Niamh Horan

Drink- and drug-fuelled assaults by teenagers are leading to a crime wave, which the authorities accept is now out of control.

As well as random assaults with knives and screwdrivers, children as young as 12 are being groomed to move drugs, cash and, in some cases, weapons for crime gangs.

Last week's rioting in parts of Dublin involved gangs of youths who hijacked and burned cars at random.

Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin called the crime culture "cancerous" and appealed yesterday for an emergency summit to counter the vicious crime wave gripping the country. Communities, he said, needed help in taking responsibility for what was happening on the streets.

"The perpetrators are, sadly, very often young people. The organisers do not hesitate to involve even young children in their crime world," he said.

Senior garda sources across Ireland confirmed that more and more children are being exploited by crime gangs, a phenomenon that was most recently raised by Frank O'Brien, a superintendent in Limerick.

Speaking after a court case, he said that "unscrupulous individuals at the high end of feud-related activity are targeting children and grooming them. These are vulnerable young people who believe this criminality gives them status as hard men."

Drink- and drug-fuelled assault is the fastest growing area of crime, with gardai saying that about 4,000 such assaults are now reported every year -- and many more violent attacks on our streets go unreported.

Gardai say they are encountering increasing numbers of incidents where youths are carrying screwdrivers and kitchen knives -- and then claiming that the 'weapons' are only carried for their own protection.

The Government is under growing pressure to act in a week that saw a taxi man stabbed more than 20 times and youths involved in a wave of St Patrick's Day crimes across the country.

Children as young as 10 were caught up in day-long riots in Finglas on the Bank Holiday, in which six cars were burnt out and 17 people were arrested.

While Justice Minister Brian Lenihan said that he welcomed the Archbishop's intervention in the crime debate, Junior Drugs Minister Pat Carey went a step further by promising to facilitate the "community summit" that was first put forward by the Archbishop last year.

"I support his concept and I would be quite happy to sit down to try and think this thing through properly. I'm happy to be part of that," Mr Carey said last night.

"People should get together at county level. We have a whole raft of bodies -- let's try and bring them together at county level."

Fr Martin Cosgrave, who said Mass for the two young Polish men who were stabbed to death in his parish of Drimnagh, said yesterday: "It is very urgent -- because this week again we see a number of people who have died needlessly".

Gardai have also called for new laws to reduce loitering around burger joints, which they believe act as a magnate for anti-social behaviour, particularly at the weekends.

One senior garda officer also said the State needed to examine its approach to juvenile crime.

Only a tiny proportion of children and teenagers who are involved in violent crime end up before the courts -- and when they do there is no place to put them.

There are now only 114 places for juvenile criminals and community leaders in Finglas claimed the St Patrick's Day riots were orchestrated by criminals who had either escaped or been released from detention centres.

See Pages 14 & 15

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News