Garda body says ‘huge lack of frontline gardaí to uphold law’ as serial car thief (17) probed over Cherry Orchard incident
Teenagers as young as 13 are suspected of being involved in stealing the cars – in many instances recording the crimes and sharing the footage on TikTok – and then “rallying” them around Cherry Orchard in Ballyfermot.
The trend also involves the targeting of particular vehicles imported from the Asian market, which have no immobiliser and are therefore easier to steal.
The latest incident ended with two female gardaí lucky to avoid injury after their patrol car was rammed on Cherry Orchard Avenue on Monday evening.
They were responding to reports of three cars being driven dangerously around the estate before the stolen hatchbacks crashed into the patrol car three times as the drivers were egged on by bystanders.
We have been asked why gardaí aren’t coming with lights and sirens on, but the required training and qualification isn’t there for enough drivers
Efforts are continuing to establish the identity of those involved, believed to be local youths, and to ascertain if the incident was planned.
No arrests have been made, but gardaí are investigating if a 17-year-old previously arrested for stealing cars and dangerous driving was involved.
The prolific thief is a close associate of another serial joyrider currently in custody in relation to an aggravated burglary.
Monday night’s incident has been criticised by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Justice Minister Helen McEntee, while local gardaí have raised concerns about how inadequate resources are affecting policing in the area.
Detective Garda Mark Ferris, a Garda Representative Association (GRA) member for the DMR West Division, said: “As the local GRA representative, our members have consistently been telling me and the association that there is a huge lack of frontline gardaí to uphold the law in the area, with the resources we currently have.
“We have been asked why gardaí aren’t coming with lights and sirens on, but as the required training and qualification isn’t there for enough drivers, this is often not happening.
“Recently recruited gardaí are given permission to drive the vehicle, but they are restricted in how they conduct their driving. This has implications for the effectiveness of their patrols.”
Det Gda Ferris said members who do not have the necessary qualifications to drive using lights and sirens fear being subjected to internal disciplinary action if they activate them.
He also raised concerns about the technology and resources available to help gardaí on the frontline who feel “under-resourced and undervalued”, and added that the two female members are recovering after the Cherry Orchard incident.
“Thankfully, they received no serious injuries. They are naturally still in shock after such a traumatic incident, and as the local rep I hope they make a full recovery and that lessons can be learned from this appalling incident,” Det Gda Ferris said.
Commissioner Drew Harris described the incident as “disgraceful” and said the public order unit would be stood up. It is understood this will involve two vans patrolling Cherry Orchard over the coming days.
Local politicians have also raised concerns about the incident and the effect such events are having on the residents.
Fianna Fail councillor Daithí de Róiste said: “The scenes in Cherry Orchard on Monday night were appalling. It’s not right that decent members of the local community should live in fear with this carry on.
“It can’t be allowed to happen that gardaí are bullied out of Cherry Orchard. We need more resources given to the local station.”
While the incident has gained significant attention after video footage circulated online, anti-social behaviour has been affecting the local community and gardaí for years.
At Halloween in 2011, five members of the force were injured in a night of orchestrated violence in which two stolen 4x4s were used to target officers.
It can’t be allowed to happen that gardaí are bullied out of Cherry Orchard
In 2015, a garda car was attacked with bricks and bottles in a suspected ambush as officers responded to reports of a stolen vehicle.
There is, sources say, also regular intelligence that gardaí may by targeted in a planned ramming.
As recently as last week, an upward trend of criminality in the area was raised with the senior garda in charge of policing in Dublin at a local authority meeting on policing.
Local Sinn Féin councillor Daithí Doolan warned of scenes of around 100 people gathering to watch youths drive stolen cars around Cherry Orchard.
While neighbours welcome any extra resources, they are left wondering how long these will remain in place for.