The reality of knife crime and arranged fights between gangs of teens is laid bare in this Garda photograph. Gardaí are alerting youths to the lethal dangers posed by carrying such weapons — and are concerned that the problem could worsen during the school summer holidays.
The photograph details the array of weaponry seized in one operation in Ballyfermot, southwest Dublin, targeting an arranged fight between teen gangs. The cache includes a saw, a sledgehammer, a hammer, a 3in claw knife, a fashioned piece of copper piping, a Stanley knife, and a normal knife.
“Each and every one of these weapons could cause fatal injuries to any person,” said Inspector Ronan Barry of Ballyfermot Garda Station. “If you bring a saw, a knife or a hammer to a fight, you are talking about serious instruments.”
He told the Irish Examiner that the Garda operation prevented a fight arranged between a local gang and a rival teen gang from neighbouring Drimnagh. Details of the haul, which dates from St Patrick’s Day, were revealed at a local policing forum meeting this month and featured in an echo.ie report.
Most of the kids in that arranged fight are thought to be aged between 14 and 16. Insp Barry said they’ve had up to 10 incidents in Ballyfermot since February, saying arranged fights are a “serious problem”.
He said they are liaising with the community and stepping up patrols and stop and searches. With most fights arranged through social media, they are difficult to prevent. He said they are concerned that the fights could escalate during the summer holidays.
Sinn Féin councillor for Ballyfermot-Drimnagh, Daithí Doolan, said that since last August there has been a “serious increase” in gang-related incidents: “There is a sinister element growing, with weapon carrying, violence and serious anti-social behaviour”. He said “massive cuts” have crippled local gardaí:
He said youth services have also been badly hit with cuts, but that the FamiliBase project in Ballyfermot is engaging with teenagers.
Within the last week, gardaí in Balbriggan, north Dublin, seized six weapons — five knives and a hammer — in street searches, including against juveniles.
The consequences of knife crime were underlined tragically this month with the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Azzam Raguragui in a south Dublin park. A juvenile is suspected in the attack.
Arranged fights featured in Cork last Saturday. Gardaí were called to a number of incidents in Midleton between 6-8pm after “reports of disturbances involving groups of youths”.
A Garda spokesman said they dispersed the groups: “One 16-year-old youth was arrested and other suspects were identified. A hammer was recovered. In a follow-up search, a 17-year-old was arrested and a knuckle duster recovered.”
On May 15, a male in his late teens and a male in his 20s attended Cork University Hospital, after an assault on Curaheen Road, with the teen suffering stab wounds. Garda statistics show that knife seizures jumped from 1,197 in 2016 to 1,936 in 2018.
The problem is greatest in Dublin and Cork.
Knife seizures increased 65% across Dublin divisions, including North Central (100 to 192), South Central (129 to 194), Northern (86 to 183) and Western (100 to 168). Numbers in the three Cork divisions doubled, from 85 to 169. Cork city seizures rose 65 to 101, Cork North from 20 to 42 and Cork West from 13 (in 2017) to 26.
Divisional breakdown of knives seized by gardai 2016-2019