STPRE STREET, DUBLIN
John O’Keeffe recently went to visit the Frontline in Store Street and found a group of gardaí with their eye firmly on the job
Store Street is a busy garda station – and I mean busy. Spend 15 minutes in their reception area and you will see what I mean. Probationers will often say that while it may be daunting to get their first posting there, this station provides them with a range of experience from community relations policing right up to working with senior colleagues on drug related feuding in the area.
While Store Street Garda Station covers a relatively small area of 7 square kilometres, with a residential population of just over 21,000, it has an astonishing footfall of 550,000 per day to deal with. Its catchment area includes a broad mix of activity from major retail, commercial, public administration and residential areas. There are approximately 4,000 shops and 10 department stores/shopping centres in the city centre, providing 4.5 million square feet of retail space. As its Superintendent, Gerard Murphy, advises, it “has an eclectic mix of residents, workers and footfall.” He continues, “The level of social disadvantage provides significant challenges for the policing team who are committed to enhancing economic activity and improving the quality of life for those people who live in, work or visit the area.”
This was no more apparent than when I went on walkabout with Garda Richie O’Donnell of the Street Crime Prevention Unit. O’Donnell looks much like any young man walking around Henry Street and Moore Street – which of course is the idea. His knowledge of his turf, those who work in it and indeed commit criminal acts there, is second to none. Friendly, and occasionally not so friendly, nods greet him wherever he goes, as he scours the streets like a human Sat Nav seeking out criminals of every type. Illegal cigarette trading is however one of his biggest issues. You might have thought that drugs and perhaps shoplifting might take up most of his and the Unit’s time but in fact it is the area of stolen goods and illegal cigarette trading that are a huge drain on their resources. Cigarette smuggling can be as big a business as drug dealing to some in the area.
Superintendent Murphy confirms, however, that crimes associated with illegal drug taking and supply still remain a big issue for the area, with other high volume crime, such as theft from shops, theft of mobile phones, bicycle thefts and, of course, the ever present anti-social behaviour keeping members very busy.
However, for better or for worse, Store Street Station is still of course more readily associated with the north inner-city drug gang feuds and this plays a significant part in their daily policing. Members in Store Street are proactive in ensuring reassurance to the local community and preventing further serious crimes from occurring through community reassurance beats, hybrid patrols and ongoing community engagement at all levels, according to Murphy.
A ride out in a garda van with a group of young frontline gardaí provided me with yet another view of the north inner city in the evening. The optics of six gardaí coming out of a van to confront troublesome youths inside a newsagent seemed to have the necessary effect. The shop owner was happy, locals passing were pleased to see their local police confronting anti-social behaviour and perhaps – just perhaps – one of the youths may have learnt a salutary lesson.
Murphy describes 2018 as having been a very successful year for his station, marking the successful visit of the Pope and St. Patrick’s Day as two of the most significant public events. “Other projects such as the policing of Halloween and right through the Christmas period have shown me how dedicated all my staff are when confronting significant policing challenges and seeing them through to a successful conclusion. There is a great team spirit amongst all ranks and sections in Store Street, which is something that helps us meet the daily challenges,” he says.
The recent promotions of sergeants and inspectors who have been allocated to Store Street will doubtless greatly improve the supervisory vacuum that has existed throughout the Force – particularly when it comes to assisting the Frontline in providing support, guidance and mentoring especially to younger members.
If you get allocated Store Street or hope to transfer there; my suggestion? From what I saw, I would grab the opportunity with both hands.
For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.