Gardaí target teen gangs on Cork city street

There have been several arrests and drugs detections following a Garda crackdown on antisocial behaviour on one of Cork’s busiest pedestrian streets.

It follows complaints from traders in the Winthrop St area of the city centre, who said the behaviour of teenage gangs congregating on the street was affecting business.

Details of the antisocial activity were outlined at a meeting of Cork City Council late last month.

In a letter to councillors, one trader outlined a litany of antisocial behaviour they faced from the gangs of young people, including shouting, spitting, cursing, wrestling, and playing football on the street.

He alleged that some were engaged in “dealing and smoking drugs” and said when they were challenged, some barricaded the entrance doors to some shops.

Cllr Terry Shannon (FF) said the behaviour had made the street a no-go area. Cllr Mary Shields (FF) described the behaviour of the “mobs” as “intimidating”.

The issue was raised at a meeting of the city’s joint policing committee yesterday.

Superintendent John Quilter said that, following a meeting with the street’s traders, a focused Garda operation in the area was launched on March 8.

He said certain individuals were targeted, and patrols were increased in and around the area, particularly at certain times on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday.

He said there had been a number of arrests and drug detections as a result.

He said one business, which had been attracting a lot of young people to the street, has, following talks with gardaí, addressed security issues outside its premises. He said while the Garda operation in the area is ongoing, feedback from traders has been positive.

Gardaí are also focusing their attention on the Mardyke skatepark where some 200 young people gathered on St Patrick’s Day, he said.

Mr Shannon welcomed the operation on Winthrop St but said gardaí need to be more proactive.

Citing a recent clip on Facebook of a young man flinging a bicycle at another youth on the street, he said: “We need to be in their faces. Parents also need to take responsibility too. I’m sure some would be shocked to see what their kids get up to when they’re in town.”

Cork Business Association chief executive Lawrence Owens said the vast majority of young people who gather in the city centre are fine. “It is a small cohort that is causing trouble. We don’t like the phrase ‘no-go area’. This was, and is a problem in this particular street, but we are happy with the Garda support we are getting,” he said.

Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer said it was important to stress it was only a small group of young people involved in the troublemaking.

Darren McAdam O’Connell, a local advocate, said he had concerns the portrayal of the problems in the area, and the subsequent response, might send out a message to young people that they shouldn’t gather in the city centre. He said the gathering of young people in a city is beneficial for them, and for a city in general.

Mr Shannon said it is the gathering of gangs of up to 30 to 40 people, who then blockade businesses, with owners challenging their behaviour, that is a cause for concern.

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