herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Drink-fuelled chaos jumps by more than a quarter on city streets

A man shields his head as another man attempts to punch him in Sword
A man shields his head as another man attempts to punch him in Sword
Public order offences

Public order offences have jumped by more than a quarter in Dublin as a recovering economy sees more revellers take to the city's nightspots.

Gardai recorded almost 6,000 incidents including fights, other aggressive behaviour and public drunkenness in the first half of this year.

The figures come as the Herald can reveal that members of the garda public order unit will be patrolling the city's busiest streets every night over the Christmas season.

The unit, dubbed the public safety team, will be cracking down on revellers who breach the public order code.

Some 5,808 incidents were recorded by gardai in the six months to the end of June - a 26pc spike when compared to the same period in 2014. In Ireland, public order offences are wide-ranging, but include behaving aggressively or in a threatening manner, public drunkenness or failing to comply with a garda's instructions.

Fights can also be dealt with under public order laws if they do not warrant an assault charge. Other offences include aggressive begging and disturbing the peace.

Just this weekend the Herald witnessed a shocking brawl in Swords after closing time in the pubs and clubs, an example of the kind of behaviour seen on our streets every weekend.

The area covered by Gardai from Pearse Street district recorded the most public order offences in the first half of 2015, with 738 incidents logged.

That's 3,903 offences per 100,000 people, the highest rate of public order incidents in Dublin. Between 50 and 60pc of the station's dealings with public order offences occur after dark as the city fuels up on alcohol.

Inspector Liam Geraghty from Pearse Street pointed out that although the district is very small it also covers the country's busiest social spots.

Ramping

Some 50,000 revellers are expected to party in the area every Friday and Saturday night over the festive period, he said.

In order to ensure that the festive season passes without major incident the public safety team will be ramping up efforts to tackle unruly revellers.

"They're approachable and they go out and mingle with people, but it's a very different type of policing. The attitude of the public safety team would be 'we'll ask you once [to stop what you're doing] and then we'll deal with it'," Insp Geraghty said.

"If a row does break out at a pub or on a street then the public safety van will arrive on the scene with a large volume of gardai who are able to deal with the situation far quicker."

Insp Geraghty was keen to point out that the rise in public order offences indicated that there has been a better use of resources, with garda members on the streets deserving credit for making more arrests.

"The recession is over, there is certainly more money in the night-time economy, but also we would take some recognition out of public order offences going up," he said.

"Public orders are generally things that our members come across and deal with on the ground - we don't usually get reports like we might with thefts."

Store Street station on the northside also recorded a high rate of public order offences. Some 550 offences (or 2,567 per 100,000 population) were logged.

In Swords, there were 62 incidents of public order offences recorded in the first six months of the year. This translates as 134 offences per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, a number of operations, including Operations Spire and Pier, have been mounted to tackle daytime pubic order issues.

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