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iPhones, the recession and garda cuts make perfect crime storm

AS the Herald's Crime Correspondent Ken Foy has seen the battle to keep our streets safe up close. Here, he details why gardai are struggling to stem the tide of violence

There is no escaping the fact that our capital is stricken by street crime.

But these crimes are not just mindless acts of violence.

There are reasons why the city centre streets of our capital have been gripped by an explosion of these types of crimes.

One is the brutal economic recession, which has taken its toll on every sector of our economy, including the black market in which criminals operate.

Since the recession took hold in 2008, criminals have seen the "bottom fall out of the drugs market".

This has resulted in more and more thugs who had been involved in dealing drugs now turning to street crime to provide their incomes.

"There is nothing like the same money in drugs anymore -- the use of illegal drugs among the middle classes has dropped dramatically since the recession began," explained a source.

Another notable factor is the popularity of smartphones, a valuable commodity which has been stolen in sometimes violent attacks across the city.

A source explained: "Because these phone devices are worth much more than regular mobiles, they are obviously much more attractive to criminals and they are now extremely popular."

Worryingly, an estimated 1,500 heroin users roam the inner city streets every week after receiving their dose of methadone in one of six clinics.

Many of these addicts are desperate for cash to feed their habits.

The other factor which is influencing the rising levels of street crime is the savage cuts in the number of gardai patrolling the streets.

The issue has been compounded by garda cutbacks, which mean that there will be 400 fewer gardai on the streets by the end of the year.

Exactly 401 personnel are scheduled to step down in 2012 -- more than half of whom are of 'garda' rank, the rank who are in the frontline against street crime.

Under the current EU/IMF deal, the Government is obliged to reduce the force from 14,500 to 13,000 by the end of 2013, and this is having a severe impact.

A source explained: "Of course this is going to have an impact on frontline policing -- a very serious impact."

The Garda overtime budget peaked in 2007 at €135.4m compared with this year's budget of €54m -- a reduction of almost two thirds which has meant far fewer officers on the streets to tackle the disturbing epidemic.