A cross-agency project is working with nine youth services to develop a street outreach programme to intervene with chaotic children involved in anti-social behaviour and drug dealing along Dublin’s Grand Canal and Red Luas Line.
An evaluation report on the project said that a total of 50 children in the area were identified with welfare concerns and that 28 of these engaged in anti-social behaviour.
Researchers highlight a particular gap in services for young people under the age of 12 who are too young for the Garda Youth Diversion Service.
The Building Community Resilience (BCR) project was the brainchild of four Local Policing Forums in Dublin’s southwest: Ballyfermot/Chapelizod; Dublin 12; Canal Communities, and South West Inner City.
The forum network commissioned research from the University of Limerick.
Its report, called Building Community Resilience, was published in 2019 and Dublin City Council agreed to implement its recommendations and set up the BCR project.
The council leads the project, in partnership with An Garda Síochána, Tusla, City of Dublin Youth Services Board, and the local forums.
The evaluation report said efforts by local youth services to set up a street intervention had hit “significant challenges” in terms of who would manage it, the relationship with existing projects, and who would fund it.
It said the leaders of the nine projects set up a forum and that this month “progress is starting to emerge”, with a shared outreach initiative, working with Garda Youth Diversion Projects.
The report said that Tusla has set up projects recently, including a pilot Foróige service for eight- to 11-year-olds and their families in Inchicore and Oliver Bond flats and a similar service in Cherry Orchard, Ballyfermot.
The evaluation, conducted by former Dublin Lord Mayor Andrew Montague, said the commitment from senior gardaí was “very significant”, with the chief superintendents from three divisions on the steering committee.
It said common themes include fear, the grooming of children, drug debt intimidation, and a breakdown of community spirit.
Locals suggested profiling local drug organisers with a view to seizing their assets and called for an increased garda presence, on foot patrol or on bikes.
Mr Montague said a major risk with removing network organisers is it could create a vacuum and lead to an “upsurge in violence” as others seek to take control.
“There is clearly an appetite within communities for the justice authorities to act against criminal network organisers,” he said.
“But there are risks of unintended consequences. I would encourage a cautious approach, with an emphasis on removing assets, and disrupting activity rather than imprisoning organisers.”