Less than a year ago I wrote here about the growing problem of street crime and wanton anti-social behaviour. The article was prompted by an alarming increase in calls to my office from people who live in daily fear of the feral behaviour of some. I wish I could report that the volume of those calls has decreased. I can’t. The number is still increasing and all too often the calls come from people who are suffering over, and over, again.
Their stories are harrowing. One woman has had the front windows in her terraced house smashed several times. She has spent hundreds of euro having windows replaced. This is money she cannot afford. She lives in terror of the next time some gang of mindless youths smashes them — youths who are not suffering the real deprivation she endures.
Another man called me only a few days ago to tell me he is terrified to go outside his house after 6pm because he feels intimidated by the youngsters who travel the streets of his estate in packs, as if they own the place.
I could go on, but many of you know stories of random and unprovoked verbal and physical attacks by gangs of kids on the streets of our town and cities.
The brutal assault on the visiting Ukrainian actor Oleksandr Grekov on Eden Quay in Dublin three weeks ago rightly shocked the nation.
It is embarrassing to see any visitor to our country attacked in the street in such a callous way, but we must face the painful truth that this attack was not the exception. The fact that not every attack garners the same media coverage should not be used as an excuse to just dismiss this as a matter of “perception”.
Many citizens across the country live in real fear of what might befall them if they go outside their home. Some, like the elderly lady I mentioned earlier, live in fear of what may happen to their property even when they stay at home.
When I raised this issue last August I said we must recognise that the Garda recruitment figures set six years ago are no longer realistic.
One year later, we have fewer Gardaí on the streets. We should have 15,000, the actual number is closer to 14,500. Even if it were 15,000 it would not be enough.
We now ask fewer and fewer Gardaí to do more and more. To compound this crisis it now seems the State is not always willing to stand behind our men and women in uniform when they do their job. Ministers must listen to their backbench colleagues from all across the country when we tell them our inboxes are full of messages from constituents telling us street crime and anti-social behaviour is a real and pressing problem.
This is especially true for our Justice Minister Helen McEntee. The public want her to focus more on delivering safe streets than on playing to the woke gallery. Every minute spent pushing a flawed hate bill or allowing Gardaí who pursue criminals to be investigated, is a minute wasted.
The minister must dramatically increase Garda numbers and resources to show that the streets of our towns and cities are safe and friendly places for all.
She must also legislate to ensure the parents of those juveniles convicted of behaving in a threatening or anti-social manner are required to pay compensation where it can be shown that willful parental negligence was a key factor.
All too often we see the victims are far worse off than the families of the perpetrators. Our street crime crisis is not born out of social deprivation or poverty; it is a result of a culture of impunity. One where a small few believe they can get away with anything they want.
Society must show them they cannot.
– Willie O’Dea TD