A new report has found that Ballymun is experiencing a surge in crack cocaine use, drug addiction and crime.
The report ‘Ballymun – A Brighter Future’, which was commissioned by Dublin City Council, states that drug addicts are being drawn to the area and criminal gangs are targeting drug users to switch from heroin to crack cocaine.
It says open drug dealing is happening on a scale that is seen in very few other communities and drug offences in Ballymun have doubled over the last four years.
It also found that the surge in drug-related activity has coincided with a reduction in gardaí in the area and recommends that 40-50 additional gardaí are needed to tackle the worsening crime wave.
Ballymun is in a garda division that has the fourth highest level of murders and attempted murders in the country, but has the eighth lowest level of garda staffing of the 28 garda divisions.
The number of gardaí in the Ballymun station fell from 130 in 2009, to 113 in 2011.
The report, which was created by ex-Lord Mayor Andrew Montague, says more gardaí, aligned with more educational and social services are needed to suppress the criminal gangs and prevent people getting involved in crime.
Ballymun is one of the most disadvantaged communities in the country, according to the National Deprivation Index.
Male unemployment is at 50% or higher and the area has the highest number of children in care per 1,000 in the country, more than twice the national average.
The report said that, despite the State’s highest allocation of child protection staff, many of the posts remain vacant.
The report says a comprehensive approach is needed to deal with Ballymun’s criminals and criminal gangs along with early interventions to prevent people and children from falling victim to crime, and support for those with issues of addiction, trauma and mental illness.
Intergenerational effects that can lock families into cycles of adversity, deprivation and ill health also need to be tackled involving gardaí, Tusla, Dublin City Council, the Probation Service, as well as the other social, educational and welfare services.
Among the recommendations in the report are for the HSE to provide 10 senior social work positions to the child protection team for Ballymun and an additional 10-15 support workers.
In conclusion, the report recommends that while it is not possible to eliminate addiction and all criminal activity, ‘more can done to protect the next generation of children growing up in Ballymun and reduce the number of traumatic experiences in their lives.’
‘There has been substantial investment by the state into the physical infrastructure of Ballymun,’ the report says.
‘A modest investment now, in services for the community, to bring Ballymun up to the
level of service available in other communities, could transform the lives of many people.’
Responding to the report, Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin North West, Paul McAuliffe said:
“When elected as Lord Mayor of Dublin I had the opportunity to carry out a significant body of policy research and I had no hesitation in selecting the impact of open drug dealing in Ballymun as the subject.
“I welcome the report and thank the Author Andrew Montague.
“Andrew was an obvious choice as a resident of Ballymun, former Lord Mayor and Councillor and as Chairperson of the Ballymun Local Drugs and Alcohol Taskforce.
“For those who believe that physical regeneration alone fixed the problems of Ballymun, the report demonstrates how underlying disadvantage, addiction and unemployment has directly impacted on the creation of open drug markets in the area.
“The report clearly outlines actions and recommendations which need to be taken, and as the only government T.D in the constituency, I intend to use whatever influence I have to ensure the actions are delivered.
“I look forward to working with the relevant agencies, stakeholders and Government departments to ensure the recommendations outlined in this report come to fruition.”
Also responding to the publication of the report, Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats and TD for Dublin North-West, has proposed a meeting with the Taoiseach to discuss the report and address the serious issues raised at the highest levels of Government.
“It is very clear that there is significant under-resourcing in services across the board in Ballymun,” Deputy Shortall said.
“The report principally highlights the critical need to properly resource family and child support services, provide better support for substance misuse, and address criminality.
“Garda numbers in particular are especially important in Ballymun given the level of drug dealing and associated crime in the local area.
“From 2012 to present, Community Gardaí strength in DMR North, which covers Ballymun, has been slashed from 86 down to 26 – that’s a 70% decrease.
“For too long, resources have not been properly allocated to the areas of greatest need in this country.
“There is a serious need now to pursue this issue, and the problems highlighted in the report, at the highest levels of Government.
“I have proposed a meeting with the Taoiseach to discuss the report and the shortages that are evident in services in Ballymun.
“This isn’t just about one Department or one agency – we need a multi-agency response, coordinated by the Department of the Taoiseach, to ensure this gets the attention it needs.”