Covid-19: Random Garda stops on young people ‘damaging’, report says

Age group believes that pandemic has been used as excuse to conduct more stops – Policing Authority

As of March 11th, 13,019 fines have been issued for breaches of regulations, an increase of 7,235 since the last report to February 11th. Photograph: iStock

As of March 11th, 13,019 fines have been issued for breaches of regulations, an increase of 7,235 since the last report to February 11th. Photograph: iStock

 

Urban community groups have claimed an increase in random stop-and-searches by gardaí on young people has had “damaging effects”.

The Policing Authority, which has highlighted the issue in its latest report on Garda operations during the pandemic, also noted claims of rising drug use in the same communities, and associated debt and intimidation.

It published its 12th report on the force’s performance since Covid-19 brought about severe public restrictions and said overall it has remained “responsive” to changing circumstances and rising infection rates.

“Organisations working with young people in a number of disadvantaged urban areas spoke of what they believe to be a deterioration in relations between young people in their area and the Garda Síochána during the current lockdown,” it said.

“Young people were reported as believing that Covid-19 [has] been used by the Gardaí as an excuse to conduct more stops, to ‘do policing to them rather than for them’ and the point was made that often the ‘wrong young people’ are being stopped which itself creates more resentment.”

The authority also engaged with student representatives who reported that the perception of policing, as a result of how it was presented, was “intimidating and negative”.

Those aged 18-25 have received the highest number of fines, at just over half, in the period to March 11th.

Authority chairman Bob Collins said there were now clear indications that while most are attempting to adhere to the regulations, the “level of observance by some is fraying”.

‘Weariness’

“There is an inevitable level of weariness that this emergency has endured for so long. There is a great deal of misinformation being widely distributed through social media and otherwise,” he said.

The report also discussed the ongoing challenges posed by heavily restricted funeral attendance. Funeral directors told the authority that they expect the policing of restrictions to become more important as other restrictions are relaxed over the coming months.

They also said that while funeral companies have been asked to avoid advertising wakes, a small number continued to do so creating the potential for commercial advantage.

The authority considered Covid-related fines to be at a high level. For the seven weeks from mid-January, the average number exceeded 1,600 per week, although this had more recently decreased.

As of March 11th, 13,019 fines have been issued for breaches of regulations, an increase of 7,235 since the last report to February 11th.

People leaving their homes without a reasonable excuse continues to be the main offence (77 per cent of fines). About 4 per cent (460) were issued to organisers of events; 12 per cent (1,620) to those who attended events in dwellings; 2 per cent for the non-wearing of face coverings (244); and 4 per cent (538) for non-essential international travel.

The number of incidents relating to international travellers failing to provide a negative PCR test on entry to the country or failing to quarantine has fallen from 116 in January to 23 in February.

Checkpoint activity has decreased marginally from about 6,500 per week in January to about 5,500 in February. Overall there have been 187,988 checkpoints since May 11th although the actual number may be higher.

The authority described recent protests in the Grafton Street area of Dublin as marking “a low point” in the pandemic, resulting as it did in injuries to garda members.