Station Watch, Blanchardstown: Cool for K-KATS

Having spent a day with the gardaí of Blanchardstown Garda Station, Editor John O’Keeffe can only wonder at the amount of work that is juggled on a daily basis

Visiting the Frontline in Blanchardstown Garda Station, and their boss Superintendent Liam Carolan, is an eye opener – on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin – but let me try. The first thing you have to get your head around is their numbers and district size.

Currently attached to Blanchardstown Garda Station are a total of 190 garda members and 31 garda staff who provide support and invaluable assistance on a daily basis. Okay – so there’s a lot of them – and there really needs to be.

The service area of the District is equally hard to imagine, covering a vast geographical area of 94.4sq kms, compromising of a sophisticated road network of main arterial motorways, national and regional road networks, including the M50, N2 and N3, all requiring concentrated roads policing. The Blanchardstown area can be broken down into nine different areas all requiring different policing needs from Castleknock to Corduff, Clonsilla to Clonee.

The Census of 2011 highlighted the following notable statistics for the population of the K District:
• 23% are non-Irish nationals, 1% are Irish Traveller
• 33% of dwellings are rented or non-owner occupied
• There are 47 nationalities in Tyrrelstown Educate Together National School in Blanchardstown.

Therefore, community size, ethnicity, and other unique policing demands dictate specific community needs.

As ever though, if you want to know what is really going on in any station, head straight for ‘the Regular.’ The men and women of the Frontline for whom often no bell tolls and who do the heavy lifting like no others. Everyone respects ‘the Regular’ for the massive workload they have to deal with and having spent time on patrol with Gardaí Ross Doyle and Diarmuid Sloan, I can see why. I mean does that radio ever stop?

Doyle and Sloan are fairly typical of much of the core of the Frontline in the gardaí – young, enthusiastic and ready for just about anything that gets thrown their way. In the short time I was with them, that was exactly what happened. I mean how do you deal with an 11-year-old runaway whose mother has no control of him and whose language and behaviours would be exceptional for even the most dysfunctional of adult offenders? An 11-year-old trying to kick a 6ft 5 officer such as Garda Diarmuid Sloan must be a bit like playing handball against a haystack – dispiriting and utterly pointless. Not, of course, that that stopped him from trying.

Another call then had us out at a house when a mentally ill man had been behaving dangerously with his sister and son. Again, like veterans in the field, both gardaí calmly and professionally listened to what had happened and offered solutions – and most importantly, words of kindness. Two minutes later they were digging a stolen motorbike out of a hedge in a local school and getting it ready to be taken away for analysis. It was a big bike – trust me – but they hauled it away like a thimble. Game of Thrones eat your heart out. After a frenetic few hours with them I was finding it difficult to imagine that these guys are recently out of Garda College. I don’t know what they are doing down in Tipp but it’s working.

As part of a Crime Prevention Initiative in the Blanchardstown Policing District, there are currently two units successfully operating to tackle serious crime. I ask Superintendent Carolan how this approach works on a day to day basis?

“The Community Action Team is an initiative set up in 2018 (known as K-KATS);” he advises, “with Units based in both Blanchardstown and Finglas it can respond rapidly to community issues such as burglary, drug dealing, thefts from cars etc and they have been extremely successful in seizing firearms, drugs and property.”

On the day I arrived, Gardaí MJ Carroll and Paul McDonnell, were assigned the enviable task of babysitting me as we toured the streets of Corduff and surrounds. Like all great hurling men from Kilkenny, Carroll prefers initials. Like all great rugby afficionadoes from Dublin (yes, he’s off to Japan soon), McDonnell prefers the standard first name. Either way, I had met the sporting dream team of Blanch, though they had only one mission that day – to show me the difficult situations they need to work with. True, they may be strong of arm, but policing is about much more today – it’s about brain muscle and these guys used it wherever we went. They know their area up and down, inside and out. So yes, before you say it, you’re right – these guys were cool for K-KATS.

This second unit is comprised of one sergeant and eight gardaí, known as ‘Operation Runoff.’ Having only been formed this year, Carolan advises me, “it is a dedicated policing unit as a result of a series of serious crime incidents arising from the Corduff area. This unit was purposely formed to tackle and prevent serious crime occurring in the Corduff area surrounding two faction groups, which had grown volatile during the course of 2019. They are a high visibility unit that target the two organised crime groups currently feuding.” The targeting appears to be working as a number of persons are before the courts charged with offences such as violent disorder, assaults, drug offences and possession of firearms.

All of the above allows the Community Policing Unit and Detective Units to work closely together and break down any silos. Community Policing Sergeant, Rory Carey and Garda Chris Ward are a classic example of community policing at its best – firm but friendly. Chatting to parents and kids in Ongar Park one minute (Carey is personally going to get the basketball hoop fixed there, I kid you not) they are then ensuring that a drink fuelled adult gathering is moved on immediately; away from the eyes of the law abiding community.

And community policing and “giving” is big news in Blanchardstown. A youth services initiative will be running in September, on three Friday evenings. ‘Y-JARC’ is a pilot scheme tackling young recitative offenders within the K District. From bike engraving, to the setting up of information stands in shopping centres, Blanchardstown community policing never seems to rest.
On the “giving’ side too, great work is ongoing with ‘Little Blue Heroes.’ Gardaí have also taken part in clean-up operations with the Tidy Towns organisation within the Corduff and Mulhuddart areas.

Doubtless, the combined operations involving the K-KAT and Operation Runoff (along with the assistance of the District Detective Units, Regular and Community Policing) have resulted in success in addressing serious crime in the Blanchardstown District. In the last 10 months, Carolan advises, up to 24 firearm seizures have been seized along with significant amounts of drugs and cash. “As a result, faction groups are losing resilience and core power and the frequency of attacks on rival gangs has reduced considerably due to the intensive targeting of these groups,” he says.

Back at the Station, I bump into Garda Keith Plunkett (GRA Rep. DMR West) who was taking the new GRA Deputy General Secretary, Philip McAnenly and Assistant General Secretary, Garda Ray Dennison, on a whistle stop tour of the station. While conditions for Frontline garda members have doubtless improved in certain areas since the dark days of non-recruitment, there remain key areas that need to be tackled on behalf of those men and women who walk out every day towards trouble on all our behalf. Good to see that the GRA remain at the forefront of these issues for us all.

Maybe we should leave the last word to the Boss however. What would Superintendent Carolan like to say to those who put themselves on the line every day for the communities in ‘the K?’ “I would like to thank the members of the K District for their incredible commitment to the local community,” he says. “The workload here is significant but members keep giving 100%. The significant recent successes in the District are solely due to the calibre of gardaí serving in the K.” Having spent a day with the Frontline of Blanchardstown Garda Station, I can only agree.

Dublin 15, you remain in safe hands.

 


For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.

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