ANTI-SOCIAL behaviour by groups of young people on the streets of Ennis’ town centre is having a “serious negative economic impact” on the county capital. 75 local businesses have signed a petition calling for a greater garda presence on Ennis’ streets amid concerns that people do not feel secure in the town.
Members of the business community this week presented the petition to Ennis’ Joint Policing Committee, which includes members of Ennis Gardai, local elected representatives, local authority officials and community representatives.
One business owner described how an elderly lady was sprayed with shaving foam on St Patrick’s day outside of his shop by two young people. Another stated that shoppers and business owners are being intimidated, young people are running in and out of shops and pathways are being blocked off by large groups.
According to the business owners, “We consider that the anti-social behavior from underage groups in town are a serious offence to local businesses, local community and visitors in our town. This experience has negative impact on our local economy, families and visitors where nobody feels secure on the streets of Ennis.”
They stated that recent St Patrick’s Day parades saw many people decide to go home because they did not feel safe. “With no people on the streets and the anti-social behavior from underage groups inside the businesses and on the streets, a number of local businesses had to close their doors at around 3pm. This matter has a serious negative economic impact in Ennis. Why does the local community have to deal with and accept this antisocial behavior?” They urged a greater garda presence during the day and more communication between the force and businesses.
“This antisocial behaviour flies in the face of our recent achievement as a Purple Flag Town and needs to be sorted sooner rather than later,” they concluded.
At the meeting, Rita McInerney, CEO of Ennis Chamber, stated that the gardai’s liasion officer with the business community has been a success.
However, she added, “There are limited resources. We have legislation to deal with anti-social behaviour and in a lot of these cases the individuals involved are known to the garda. We need to find a solution and the business are very willing to support the gardai in their efforts.”
Speaking at the meeting, Superintendent Derek Smart urged the business owners to contact the local gardai to report any incidences of anti-social behaviour. He stated that the Clare force has seen a large number of retirements in recent years and that much of the available resources are being put into investigating burglaries.
He told the business people that gardai need to be made aware of what is happening in order to manage the available resources. Supt Smart added that gardai are often on the streets in a more covert way, not wearing high visibility jackets that could prematurely alert their presence to those engaged in possible criminal behaviour.
In response to questions about the use of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), he stated that very few have been issued in Clare. He emphasised the need to report all incidences, stating that while one action of anti-social behaviour may not be enough to implement an ASBO, it could be possible if a pattern of behaviour is established.
He highlighted the gardai’s work with juveniles, including educating children in schools to keep them out of the courts.
Chairman of the JPC, Councillor Paul O’Shea suggested a text alert system be put in place between the business community and the gardai. Councillor Johnny Flynn stated that anti-social behaviour is “festering” and is impacting on job creation and quality of life in Ennis.
Councillor Michael Guilfoyle stated more gardai should be on the streets, particularly for large scale events such as festivals. And he urged the county’s Oireachtas members to push for legislation to deal with anti-social behaviour.