Will Operation Citizen Make Dublin A Safer Place?

The gradual easing of lockdown restrictions has been welcomed by all, however it has not come without its pitfalls. In Dublin city there has been growing concern surrounding anti-social behaviour and petty crime on the streets of the capital.

Launched on the 22nd of October, Operation Citizen aims to tackle the issue and inspire confidence in the public about the safety of Dublin city centre.

Operation Citizen is an initiative of An Garda Siochána that involves an increased presence of officers on the city’s streets, especially over the crucial weekend periods.

Crime in the Capital

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) Dublin city was the worst area in Ireland for theft related crimes in 2019. In 2020 the Dublin City Council area topped the country for the highest rates of crimes involving drugs, theft, assaults, public disorder, and possession of weapons, even if the overall numbers have dropped from the year before (likely due to long periods of lockdown).

During a respite in COVID-19 related restrictions this June much attention was given to outbreaks of anti-social behaviour in the capital, particularly on Dublin’s South William Street and in Temple Bar and the surrounding areas. Videos uploaded after the June Bank Holiday showed young men climbing on top of taxis and jumping from bonnet to bonnet on South Great George’s Street, while an incident on the 17th of June saw a group of four throwing glass bottles and chairs at restaurant staff on South William’s Street.

When it was announced that the country would enter a new and lighter stage of coronavirus regulations from the 22nd of October, there were worries about a repeated surge in such incidents.

Labour TD for Dublin Bay South, Ivana Bacik, has highlighted the concern, reporting on the 30th of September that “In recent weeks, [she has] received a notable increase in correspondence from constituents who have witnessed or been victim to alleged violent attacks in Dublin’s South Inner City and other local areas in the Dublin Bay South constituency. These reported incidents range from xenophobic verbal abuse to muggings and violent assaults. They have been reported right across the City and have been taking place both at night and during the day.”

Bacik has reached out to the Minister for Justice for solutions to the issue, stating that “Throughout the pandemic of the past eighteen months, many of us have come to appreciate the value of our public spaces. Reclaiming the outdoors for public use has been a positive development for Dubliners and visitors to the area. However, it is of vital importance that these spaces are made safe for people. This worrying trend cannot be allowed to continue and meaningful action must be taken to address it.”

Operation Citizen

In a report issued on the 5th of November An Garda Siochána described Operation Citizen as being ‘focused on reassuring the public, residents, visitors, businesses and workers that Dublin City Centre is a positive safe environment.’

To this end, the scheme has involved increasing the number of Gardaí in the city centre to 

  • Over 100 Gardaí patrolling Dublin City Centre each weekend evening
  • More than 20 Gardaí, either on foot or on mountain bike, patrolling each day
  • Support from 24 members of city centre mobile patrol units
  • 8 dedicated officers patrolling the Liffey boardwalk and quays from 4pm to 4am
  • 30 additional Gardaí on beat patrols for weekend evenings

These measures are expected to allow for 500 additional hours of policing each week and will also involve support activity from Regional armed patrols, the Garda Public Order Unit, and the Garda Dog Unit.

The operation is being monitored by the Chief Superintendents of the Dublin Metropolitan Regions both North and South central, as well as the Assistant Commissioner for the Dublin Region. The Gardaí also plan to work closely with local businesses and high-street establishments.

2021 Turnaround?

Despite the somewhat alarming numbers from 2019 and 2020, recent statistics released by An Garda Siochána have better news for Dubliners. Provisional Crime Statistics for the week ending on the 31st of October displayed a drop across the board in a large group of crime types, including assault, bike thefts, drunkenness offences, pickpocketing, and public disorder. This is compared to the same time period in 2020.

In related news, two teenage boys connected with an alarming incident last April where a young girl was pushed off a platform and under a stationary DART, appeared before the Dublin Children’s Court last Tuesday, the 9th of November. The girl in question was thankfully unharmed, but video footage of the encounter went viral and sparked outrage. However, Dubliners may find it encouraging that these two perpetrators have been brought to face the justice system, and hope that there will continue to be meaningful consequences for displays of public violence in the city.

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Caoilfhinn Hegarty

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