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Wednesday 22 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Alamy Stock Photo
# Dublin City
Recently-retired Garda Inspector says Operation Citizen 'under resourced and failing Dublin'
Tony Gallagher served in Dublin’s north inner city and was involved in managing major incidents and events.

OPERATION CITIZEN – THE Garda operation aimed at preventing anti-social behaviour and violence on the streets of Dublin city centre – is failing to meet its aims because it is not adequately staffed, a former Garda Inspector has said. 

Tony Gallagher served in Dublin’s north inner city – part of his job involved managing major incidents and events.

He retired earlier this year after a decorated career in An Garda Síochána which included a Scott medal for bravery for confronting an armed gang. 

Gallagher now works with security consultants the Ashtree Risk Group and has been working with Dublin retailers helping them mitigate risks to their businesses.

Speaking to The Journal, he said that the Dublin city centre operation was inadequately resourced – adding that many officers who are assigned to it had been drafted in from other areas.

His comments come in the wake of an RTÉ Prime Time report broadcast this week which focused on the issues on O’Connell Street surrounding drug use, drug dealing and anti-social behavior.

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin joined a host of voices expressing concern about the violence on O’Connell Street and the areas around the city. 

What is Operation Citizen? 

Last October, gardaí launched Operation Citizen to target anti-social behaviour and other crimes in Dublin city centre. 

Operation Citizen, gardaí said, involves 100 gardaí patrolling the areas around the Liffey Boardwalk and the quays.

The operational order directs guards to be deployed on foot and and on mountain bike patrols – with 20 officers on the streets supported by a further 12 mobile patrols across the four city centre garda stations. 

Pearse Street Garda Station covers south of the river while Store Street and the Bridewell deal with the city centre streets on the northside around O’Connell Street and adjoining locations such as Liffey Street. 

But Gallagher believes this deployment is not taking place as planned and that rather than solving the problems of anti-social behaviour in Dublin, the operation is having an impact on neighbouring areas – leading to stretched Garda resources there. 

oconnell-bridge-in-dublin-ireland-at-night Alamy Stock Photo Operation Citizen and Boardwalk were designed to bring safety to the streets of Dublin. Alamy Stock Photo

“There are not sufficient gardaí assigned to this project, quite a few of the gardaí are drawn in from other districts around Dublin thus depriving those areas of a service,” Gallagher said. 

Garda statements have said that Operation Citizen involves 100 gardaí patrolling the areas around the boardwalk and the quays.

According to Gallagher, “it is a fact that there are no more than approximately 20 Gardai assigned on a daily basis and I speak on the side of generosity in this assessment”. 

The former Inspector is calling for a return to on-the-beat patrols for O’Connell Street in particular, and says that six officers need to be placed on foot patrol there permanently. 

“Dublin city receives approximately 90 million visitors in a full year, it was at 110 million pre-pandemic,” Gallagher noted – arguing that despite those high numbers, there was “significant under-resourcing” of city centre Garda stations.

“This must change, policing should follow the crowds and a very high level of Garda visibility is required to reassure visitors, tourists and retailers.  

“It has been caused by a lack of strategic thinking which has resulted in appalling consequences,” he added. 

Gallagher said he has identified a number of main risk factors all centred around a failure in planning. 

The first, he believes, is the intensification of homeless hostels in the O’Connell Street area – he said many of the occupants of these facilities are suffering with addiction problems.

“They cannot remain in the hostels during the day and so they converge on the city centre streets, they take up positions directly outside shops and commence panhandling, the money that they receive is used to purchase alcohol and drugs and inevitably they turn to crime. 

“I know of at least two city centre businesses who have taken a decision to close after trading in the city for over thirty years, an additional hostel opening on the same street that they trade in was the last straw for them,” he added. 

Gallagher said that much of the street level crime is caused by people caught in the whirlpool of addiction issues committing crime in the hopes of funding a supply of heroin.

He said that people in need of help with their addiction issues need to be placed in accommodation which is away from the heroin dealing hubs near O’Connell Street. 

“There are good examples of where centres like Coolmine have developed young addicts and steered them away from drugs and crime, so strategic thinking must change at Government level as it has been Government Policy that has placed these individuals in city centre hostels, the consequences were not considered,” he added. 

He believes the second issue is the prevalence of methadone dispensing clinics in the city centre. Methadone is a heroin replacement treatment taken by people with addiction issues which is designed to wean them off heroin.

“This lack of foresight has caused more people suffering from addictions to visit the city, they travel in. 

“It is also the case that they do not go home, instead they too loiter around the city.  The combination of the intensification of hostels and creating methadone dispensing clinics have had a direct impact on the crime risk that exists in the city,” he added. 

Gallagher also suggested that volunteer-led groups providing food and other services to homeless people in the city centre should be facilitated to do so indoors, as a risk-reduction measure. 

TG Tony Gallagher served as an Inspector in Dublin's north inner city.

Asked for a response to Gallagher’s comments, a Garda spokesperson said the force “closely monitors” the allocation of resources in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies.

They said this is done on a District, Divisional and Regional level, “to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public”.

The spokesperson said that Operation Citizen involves daily co-ordination of dedicated resources from Pearse Street and Store Street Garda Stations conducting high visibility foot, pedal cycle and mobile patrols in locations identified where instances of anti-social behaviour and public order offences occur.

Since Operation Citizen was initiated up to 30 September last the garda statement said 6,775 people have been arrested.

It said 10,811 charges were preferred and 4,165 summonses created. Additionally drugs with an estimated street sale value of €4,869,271 (subject to analysis) were located and seized in the Store Street and Pearse Street Districts.

In a statement Dublin City Centre Assistant Commissioner Angela Willis, Dublin Region blamed the sale and supply of drugs as the primary factor behind the violence and anti-social behaviour in the area. 

“The Garda Síochána are very mindful of the harm that illicit drugs cause in communities, and the significant negative impact caused in all aspects of society by the behaviour of individual who are under the influence of illicit drugs.

The seizure of significant quantities of both heroin and cocaine with an estimated street sale value in excess of one million euro (€1,000,000), by Garda personnel attached to the DMR East Divisional Drug Unit is a demonstration of our continued efforts to remove illicit drugs from our streets and communities across the Dublin region, thereby reducing the harm to our residents and business communities that is associated with drug related criminality.

A statement was requested from the Department of Justice. 

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