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Minister acknowledges 126 Public disorder incidents in Templars Hall Estate in Waterford in 2011 – Cullinane

18 October, 2011

Responding to questions in the Seanad today by Senator David Cullinane, the Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter acknowledged that in 2011 there have been 126 public disorder type incidents in the Templars Hall Housing Estate with 21 arrests made. The offences relate to public disorder, assault, drink driving, possession of drugs for sale or supply and theft related offences.

Speaking in the Seanad today Senator Cullinane said:

“The residents of the Templars Hall Housing Estate have been living a nightmare for many years. Their estate is effectively turned into an entertainment zone several nights a week. Public disorder and loutish behaviour is caused by a minority of the estate student population. Over 80% of the houses in the estate are rented to students. The public disorder incidents range from large house parties, drinking in public places, shouting, smashing bottles and abusing residents and urinating on resident’s property.

“Many of the residents have children who find it difficult to sleep. The disturbances are affecting the physical and mental health of the residents. Children and parents are unable to sleep. It is unfair and disgraceful that residents are forced to live in such conditions. The primary responsibility lies with the minority of students’ hell bent on causing trouble and showing a complete disregard for their neighbours.

“I want to commend the Students Union for their efforts in trying to solve the problem. They are doing a first class job and are showing leadership. Local councillors and the Gardai are also supporting the residents. However the problem remains and it needs to be comprehensively tackled.

“The Minister’s figures show the true extent of the problem. In 2011 alone there have been 126 public disorder type incidents in the area. These figures only relate to complaints made and acted upon. Twenty-one people have been arrested for a range of offences relating to public disorder, assault, drink driving and drug dealing. It is not good enough that residents are living in such an environment.

“I am calling on the Minister to intervene and ensure that we have an appropriate Garda response. The Gardai need to be resourced and have the powers to deal with the full range of offences committed in the estate. It is incredible that a small estate has such a high level of incidences and its shows the magnitude of the problem. I commend the residents for taking a stand and demanding action and I call on the Minister to do all he can to assist.” ENDS

The Minister’s response follows:

I thank the Senator for raising this matter on the adjournment. I am speaking on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, who regrets that he is unable to be present due to other business. The Minister shares your concern about incidents of anti-social behaviour in the Templar's Hall area in Waterford and is conscious of how distressing such incidents are for the local community.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to attach a higher priority to community policing and, within available resources, a higher Garda visibility in the local neighbourhoods worst affected. An Garda Siochana operates a model of community policing which builds upon and enhances good community policing practice. Clear objectives are set, such as high visibility in the community, ease of contact by members of the public and enhanced support for crime prevention strategies such as Neighbourhood Watch and Community Alert.

In its Policing Plan for 2011, An Garda Siochana has prioritised actions to achieve the maximum levels of safety for local communities and to provide a community policing service which meets the demands of the public. The Plan identifies a range of strategies to be deployed to counter anti-social activities, including targeted operations, high visibility patrols, deployment of appropriate resources to identified public order hotspots in respect of alcohol and drug related behaviour and youth crime and the full utilisation of existing legislation.

The Minister has been informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management in Waterford is aware of difficulties being experienced by residents relating to public disorder and other anti-social behaviour in the Templar's Hall area. In terms of a front line policing response, additional resources from within Waterford Garda District have been deployed in the locality by local Garda management, on days and at times identified as being when such behaviour is more likely to occur, to conduct additional patrols in this area and its environs. The area continues to receive a high level of priority.

Records indicate that to date in 2011 there have been 126 public disorder type incidents reported to An Garda Siochana in this area. These have resulted in around 21 persons being arrested for offences relating to public disorder, assault, drink driving, possession of drugs for sale or supply and theft related offences.

Members of the local Community Policing Unit, working with local residents, Waterford Institute of Technology authorities and the students' union, have developed an action and response plan to combat such behaviour. This approach has resulted in a reduction in anti-social behaviour in this area, and the local residents' association has acknowledged this. Local Garda management, through the Community Policing Unit, continues to work with all stakeholders in the area to address issues which arise and in response to complaints by local residents. I might point out that the Gardai advise that anti-social behaviour in the area is not confined to any particular grouping.

Local Garda management recently held a productive meeting with local residents, on 6 October, to discuss continuing issues of concern to the residents.

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