‘Flashing’ of stolen cars happens ‘every night’ in Cherry Orchard, say locals
Gardaí believe ramming of squad car happened in revenge for series of arrests made last month
Tue Sep 20 2022 – 21:18
The ‘flashing’ — driving at speed — of stolen cars up and down Cherry Orchard Avenue in west Dublin — is “terrifying” but happening “every night — sometimes in the afternoon too”, according to people living in the area.
“Things had quietened down for a while and then it has just gone nuts again in last few weeks,” said one woman coming from St Ultan’s national school on Tuesday. The school, attended by 500 children, is metres from where a Garda car was rammed by a stolen car on Monday evening, cheered on by dozens of onlookers.
“The kids are not safe,” she added. “I have a six year old and he thinks what’s happening every night is normal behaviour. He thinks it’s kind of cool. So you’re trying to teach him it’s not.”
An older man whose house looks out on to where the incident happened said: “You just get a pain in the neck with it.” Asked if people are frightened, he said: “No, people are so used to it. They just come out and look at it.
“After that car was rammed, the guards left. The lads were allowed go into that field, burn the cars for an hour and a half,” he says. “They broke the railings down there and scrambled around the green.”
The large grassy area opposite his home, which could be used as a playing field, sports pitch or large playground, was still smouldering on Tuesday as acrid smoke billowed. Earlier, Dublin City Council had removed the burned-out cars.
Gardaí are confident they have established the identities of those involved in Monday’s incidents and arrests are expected soon. Some of the suspects involved are youths and were under a court-ordered curfew at the time, sources said.
The suspects are believed to have rammed the Garda car in revenge for a series of arrests made last month of young men and teenagers suspected of involvement in car thefts, dangerous driving, criminal damage and public-order offences in Cherry Orchard. Most of those involved are underage and are being dealt with as minors by the courts.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the two gardaí who were in the patrol car that was rammed were uninjured and 11 Garda cars were on the scene shortly afterwards. He said the public-order unit had been on standby over the weekend.
Asked what is needed to address the problem, views are mixed in Cherry Orchard. One woman, who works with young people but does not want to be named, met Ballyfermot gardaí in recent weeks.
“The police have said we can either have a really heavy, aggressive response and get the Army in, but nobody wants that. Or you build up community relations with the gardaí. But you can’t have guards risking their lives with this either.”
Local councillor Daithi Doolan warned against a “heavy-handed” approach only by gardaí, however, saying while this may reassure residents in the short term it could do harm in the long term — antagonising the community as an “occupying force”.
A “long-term” strategy is needed, including building up a Garda-community liaison relationship. In addition a large-scale investment is needed in providing trauma-informed supports to families and children. The local FamiliBase service repeated its calls for such a service when Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman visited last Thursday. This would be invaluable, said Doolan, for ‘hard-to-reach’ young people who are not engaging with the numerous other services.
Echoing him, the youth worker said: “If you were stand here some mornings and listen to the trauma people experience on a daily basis, you would be shocked. Everything. One family could be experiencing abuse at home, drugs at home, death of a sibling, a parent in prison, no money in the house, no food, intimidation.”
Cllr Hazel Norton said though there were numerous facilities in the area — boxing, running clubs, an equine centre, a skate park — “some of the problems are so deep” — and such activities would not attract young people seeking “adrenaline”.