I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to raise the issue of crime in Dublin city centre. Dublin has a reputation as a safe, friendly and welcoming city for visitors, and the city centre has always been a vibrant social hub for residents of suburban Dublin and outlying areas. Unfortunately, Dublin's reputation as a safe city is coming under threat. The threat comes in the form of serious anti-social, criminal behaviour on the streets, and the failure to tackle those issues properly.
The "Your City, Your Voice" survey, carried out by Dublin City Council in 2011, shows that the residents of Dublin are very well disposed to the city, and have a genuine affection for their city. A total of 88% of respondents said that Dublin is a great place to live. However, the survey also revealed some far more worrying statistics. Only 31% said they feel safe in the city centre at night. When asked "What is the worst thing about Dublin?", the single biggest concern, raised by 36% of respondents, was anti-social behaviour, including drink, drugs and crime. There is a genuine concern, which I share, that this is having a serious impact on the image of the city centre. The matter requires urgent attention.
The nature and extent of crime and anti-social behaviour on the streets of the city centre is a major concern. There is a perception that adequate action is not being taken to tackle it. Of particular concern in the city centre is the dealing and use of drugs, which far too often is carried out in the open and without fear of consequences. Along with that we are seeing increased incidents of robberies, violence and unprovoked attacks. Just two weeks ago a man was tragically murdered in an unprovoked attack on Camden Street, and there have been further newspaper reports since of vicious, unprovoked attacks. We have reached a point where the Evening Herald, Dublin’s newspaper, can describe the city centre as “Our Streets of Shame”. The newspaper’s recent study of an afternoon in the life of O’Connell Street paints a bleak picture of violence, drugs, binge drinking and begging. What was outlined is a growing problem, which if not tackled will seriously damage the reputation of our city at home and abroad. It will have a negative impact on the city as a social focus and it will change people’s disposition to go into the city centre. Furthermore, it will impact on the economy and on the business life of the city.
It appears as though the dynamic and pattern of anti-social and criminal behaviour in Dublin city centre has changed and intensified recently. It is essential that provision is made for a special period of intense Garda presence and monitoring on the streets of the city centre. Such a period, of perhaps five or six weeks, should be used to categorise and identify the nature and full extent of the problems, including the underlying dynamic, to identify flash-points, and to assess the impact on the city centre overall.
Following on from this period of monitoring, it is essential that we develop a detailed plan of action, which builds on joint policing. The essence of the 2005 Act that established joint policing committees is that tackling anti-social behaviour and crime is not the sole preserve of the Garda and the justice system, rather, it is an issue best tackled in partnership between the Garda, local businesses, publicans, chambers of commerce, taxi drivers and citizens. Everyone who benefits from the economy of the city centre must be accountable and play their part in tackling the problem. They must give some energy towards solving a problem that affects all of us. Joint policing has regrettably not been properly nurtured in this country. Unfortunately, it has withered on the vine, as it were, in Dublin.