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'Crumlin Village has become intolerable': 1980s letters show Dubliners' fears about high crime rate

People across Dublin raised concerns about spates of crime in their locality in the 1980s, State Papers reveal.

File photo - Crumlin Garda Station
File photo - Crumlin Garda Station

OVER THE COURSE of two months in late 1985 and early 1986, a shop across the road from a Dublin garda station was burgled seven times, according to State Papers released this week.

In a letter dated 4 February 1986 to the then-Garda Commissioner, Patrick J Culligan, the owner of Kate’s Blossoms on St Agnes Road, Crumlin Village said she was writing to question what Crumlin Garda Station was doing to tackle local crime in light of the recent burglaries.

The shop in question was located just 10 metres away from Crumlin Garda Station.

In an attached letter, it was outlined that the shop had been burgled on the following dates:

  • 14 December 1985
  • 19 December 1985
  • 22 December 1985
  • 2 January 1986
  • 5 January 1986
  • 11 January 1986
  • 1 February 1986

“As a result of all these incidents, I feel I must ask has Crumlin Village become a ‘No Go Area’? Just what exactly is the garda station, which is situated across from the shop, doing about crime?” the shop owner wrote. 

She said that the burglaries have reduced her to “a nervous wreck”. 

“What started out as the first step on what I hoped would be a successful business career, which has progressed at no help I might add from the State to employing a school leave, now has to be sold,” she wrote. 

“As a shopkeeper, employer and above all ratepayer, the situation in Crumlin Village has now become totally intolerable and I must now demand immediate action.” 

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Crime in 1980s Dublin

In December 2015, TheJournal.ie reported on State Papers from 1984 which shone a light on the landscape of Ireland’s crime scene in the early 1980s. 

A Garda crime report from 1984 showed that Dublin had almost twice the crime data of any other area of the country at the time, including Cork city, with a rate of 56.7 crimes per 1,000 population. 

The documents revealed that an Irish Post editorial from 1983 gave a damning verdict on the crime apparently plaguing Dublin’s streets, in which the city was described as being the “most blighted and most dangerous of Europe’s small capitals”. 

So, it’s rather unsurprising that the State Papers published this week reveal that numerous complaints were made by people around Dublin to politicians regarding crime issues in their locality. 

On 15 March 1985, a person in Dalkey, south Dublin wrote to Michael Noonan TD, the then-Justice Minister, outlining that they had been informed the previous day that their car had been destroyed by fire, some two weeks after its theft from their home. 

They wrote that it was the second time in three years that a car of theirs had been stolen and destroyed. 

They said this incident follows “some five separate burglaries at my home, the theft of my son’s chained bicycle in Baggot Street during daylight hours and the recent burglary of my 98-year-old mother’s home in Dun Laoghaire”. 

“This appalling record, concerning only a single family, is a very direct indictment of the state of anarchy that exists in Ireland at present,” they wrote. 

“It does not record in the stated facts the horror, shock, disquiet, heartbreak or cost which these incidents have generated.” 

Capture

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The records released in December 2015 outlined that the stealing of cars had been a particular issue in Dublin in the early 1980s, with 22,000 cars being stolen in 1982 alone.

Another letter published this week reveals that in south Dublin in 1984 a group of local business people and householders decided to form a group called People United Against Crime Association. 

The letter said: “Over the past few years, we have been the victims of the increasing crime wave. Most of us and our colleagues have been robbed or burgled and assaulted, often with guns and other deadly weapons.”

It continued: “We have now decided to fight back and stand up for ourselves.” 

Looking at the situation in north Dublin, a shop worker from Skerries wrote to Nora Owen TD on 18 April 1985 saying that people in the local community don’t feel safe in their homes anymore, citing recent news of break-ins. 

“I, myself, haven’t had a holiday for several years and much as I need one I am afraid to go away lest that on my return I should find my property and my means of livelihood gone,” he wrote. 

Even during the evening when I sit down to relax, safety chains have to be attached to the outer doors and a weapon kept in the sitting room for protection.

“I have had to face marauding thugs a couple of times over the years and now it is not a case of wondering if I will be attacked again, but when.”

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