Hospital admission and injury records will be used to help establish the true levels of violence that have taken hold in Dublin’s north inner city in a first step towards following the Scottish approach of “treating violence as a disease”.
Security sources said there was now a growing acceptance the official Garda crime data did not capture the true level of many crime types, especially in areas such as the north inner city where control and fear exerted by criminals dissuaded victims from going to the Garda.
This even included cases where people had been very seriously injured, up to and including sustaining gunshot or stab wounds, and extreme drug debt intimidation and attacks.
Last week Sarah Kelleher, chief executive of the Lourdes Youth and Community Services in Dublin 1, told Taoiseach Micheál Martin that "drug dealers are effectively running whole parts of the northeast inner city".
The Department of Justice and Garda Headquarters are now studying the examples of London and Glasgow, where increased violence has been met with a public health response as well as policing.
Last week Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris met for talks about recent violent events, especially in the north inner city. Ms McEntee made reference to "drawing lessons from international examples, such as Scotland and London".
The Irish Times understands a key part of the initial phase of the new response involves determining the true levels of violence, crime, intimidation and threats in the north inner city, including in the area of domestic violence. This would include official crime data bolstered by hospital records of crime-related injuries, victimisation surveys and addiction-related data.
In Scotland, for example, the national Violence Reduction Unit “treats violence as a disease”. It works by “diagnosing and analysing the root causes of violence” and then develops responses tailored to specific areas.
While the police are used as a central approach to tackling all forms of violence, staff are also placed in hospitals in a bid to intervene and aid victims injured in attacks but who may not feel able to go to the police.
Dublin’s north inner city has emerged as a particular area of concern as it has been beset with major security and social – or “wicked” – issues. Scientific and research literature defines a “wicked” criminal and social dynamic as one that is complex and deep-rooted. It is often resistant to intervention efforts.
In recent weeks there has been a series of knife attacks, two of them fatal, on the streets of the north inner city amid growing concern at extreme antisocial behaviour by groups of teenagers. The area has also been a major security risk for violence in the Kinahan-Hutch feud as many of the Hutch faction reside there.