Gangs of up to 40 youths have been terrorising locals in Cork City, with more policing and Tusla involvement needed to address the problem before it potentially mushrooms over the summer, a Cork TD has said.
Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould said that one of these mass gatherings involved a violent assault, and another involved a serious bike accident.
“Cars and vans pulled up and people beat each other up in the middle of the day. The ambulance had to be called — one person was violently assaulted, one was injured in a bike accident.
“I know people who have had to move out of their homes because they are terrified.
“My worry is this will only get worse over the summer.
Mr Gould was speaking at Cork City’s Joint Policing Committee, which released crime statistics for the first two months of the year.
Chief Superintendent Thomas Myers agreed in the meeting that Garda resources were limited in Cork and across the country, with too few people entering Garda training and too many trained gardaí leaving the force.
But overall, crime statistics, especially for violent crime, had decreased.
“The streets are a bit safer than they were before,” Chief Supt Myers said.
Property crime increased by 61% in January and February this year compared to the first two months of last year. But Chief Spt Myers said this reflected the return of the city being open after covid, and when examined within a three year context represented quite regular levels.
Theft from shops — which increased by 78% from the same period last year to 331 cases — was raised as a considerable problem by elected representatives with some shop owners fearing for their own and their staff’s safety due to theft and intimidation, they said.
Gardaí are actively trying to tackle this problem, Chief Spt Myers said.
Interfering with a vehicle, with the intention to steal an item from it or to steal the vehicle, increased by 209% rising to 71 incidents in the first two months of this year.
Theft or unauthorised taking of a bicycle increased by 81%, rising from 21 to 38 incidents in the first two months of this year from the same period last year.
However aggravated burglary fell by 100% to 0 incidents due to targeted efforts to intervene with young offenders, Chief Spt Myers said.
And crimes against the person — one of the most serious categories of crime — fell by 23%.
Assaults causing harm dropped by 32% falling to 30 cases in the first two months of this year from 44 in the same period last year.
Although murders had risen from 0 in the first two months of 2022 to fewer than 10 in the first two months of this year, as the numbers were small they were not recorded in the committee.
Minor assaults fell by 10% to 137 cases in January and February this year.
There were a total of 32 cases of rape and sexual assault in January and February of this year, but as many reports were historic there was “thankfully no major increase,” Chief Spt Myers said.
Public order offences decreased by 21%, falling from 363 to 288.
Drug offences fell by 19% to 145 in January and February this year.
Possession of drugs for sale or supply fell by 19% to 35 cases and possession for personal use fell by 20% to 110.
However, concerns were raised about open drug taking on the city’s streets.
Some older constituents are now afraid to come into the city due to open drug taking, Labour Councillor John Maher said.
A number of elected representatives, including Fianna Fáil Cllr Colm Kelleher, called for pressure to speed up the process of having a mobile drug injection facility to keep addicts safer from overdose and introduce them to wraparound services and to keep the streets clear of drug paraphernalia and to shield children and the public from open drug use.
City Council chairwoman Ann Doherty said that resources must be provided for running the new injection facility in the health service budget.
But Dr Darren McAdam O’Connell cautioned people to remember when talking about open drug taking that Cork City is “one of the safest cities in the world” and that constant talk and overhyping of what limited crime exists risks damaging social cohesion, and can injure the city’s reputation.