Johnstown Anti-social Response Document and Youth Club night

Please read a letter from Cllr Sinead Burke:

Hi everyone,

I have arranged with Meath Youth Federation for the use of their Youth Cafe  on January Thursday 16th at  7.30pm. I propose to invite all interested young people and their parents from Johnstown to come along on the night for three reasons:

  • discuss how we can get a Youth Club up and running for the Johnstown area
  • talk to parents about forming a committee to run the club (Meath Youth Fed have offered to provide training and support)
  • complete the final part of our Johnstown Residents Anti-Social document.
    I would like to use the night to talk to young people and get their opinions and ideas to put into the report.
    Please feel free to invite as many young people and parents from the area to come along on the night.
    If the night goes well, the document should be complete by the end of January and will be on the Superindendants desk. I will circulate the Superindendants email address then and would be grateful if you could drop him a line stressing the importance of meeting with Johnstown residents to discuss the contents.
    I have enclosed the first draft of the report below, please feel free to get back to me with additions, amendments and any further ideas you’ve have since the night we met up. Also, if you wish, please circulate it to neighbours and residents groups in your area, for their feedback too.Have a peaceful and happy Christmas,
    is mise le meas
    Cllr Sinead Burke

    Johnstown Anti-Social Response Document – Working Document

    A meeting of concerned Johnstown residents met on Wednesday 20th November to discuss on-going anti-social problems in the area. The group outlined the main issues and also sought to come up with solutions. The meeting lasted for over two hours and was a space where residents could speak their minds anonymously.

    The overwhelming feelings on the night were anger at the level of trouble they encounter in their neighbourhood and frustration at the Garda response. Residents want to be proud of their area and they want to improve community spirit. They are willing to play their part in improving the area but feel increasingly isolated and let down by the authorities, especially the Gardaí.

    The group identified three main problems, Anti-social behaviour by young people, lack of facilities for young people and the lack of a credible and effective Garda response to calls.

    Anti-social behaviour
    · This ranges from gangs making nuisances of themselves hanging around to criminal damage and physical assaults
    · The point was well made that 95% of young people of the area are fine, it is a small percentage are causing trouble.

    Residents spoke of first hand experiences of:
    · A petrol bomb thrown earlier the same evening of this meeting
    · Houses Damaged
    · Burglaries and cars being stolen
    · Bins burned and stones thrown
    · Green areas – areas for trouble
    · Glass bottles being used as ammunition when stealing and burning bins
    · Being taunted if they stand up for themselves
    · Older crowds are recruiting younger ones who can’t be arrested
    · Shops under threat from shoplifting
    · Old people trapped in their homes once it goes dark
    · One man was jumped three times, on one occasion he was hit with a wheel brace to the head suffering severe brain injuries – garda response was “What did he do to provoke them?”
    · A youngster encouraged by his father
    · Pupils in school uniform causing trouble
    · Afraid to contact parents, surely children of 14 to 16 years are their responsibility?
    · Where are they getting alcohol from – It was suggested from the local Spar?

    Lack of Youth Facilities
    Residents pointed out the following facts:
    · No facilities for young people in the area
    · Teenagers are hanging around the area with nowhere else to go
    · It was suggested that €40 million was collected in development levees from Johnstown, where has this money been spent?
    · Could the Old National School be converted to community use?
    · There was poor planning from day one
    · Will there be pitches etc on the new school campus?

    Lack of Gardai
    No meeting with the guards
    garda response is “lack of funding and manpower”
    people are frustrated – first point of contact when something happens
    Guards don’t do anything if they do catch young kids
    Garda Response – walking through pedestrian crossways – cars not stopping
    Main frustration from people is no response from guards
    no answer or “I’m only here to answer the phones”
    “Someone will give you a call in a couple of days”
    More Garda presence needed in the area
    young people know guards won’t come out
    no confidence in the guards – “nothing positive will come from calling them”
    What’s the point?
    The guards know who is causing the problems
    No one will be ultimately responsible for the guards
    Most people know who the trouble makers are
    Why can’t police do a blitz and knock it on the head once and for all – frustration!
    Note: Residents pointed out that the parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s actions and Paddy Skeehan – community guard has great relationship with local school pupils

    Solutions
    After much debate two suggestions emerged. To work effectively, they would have to overlap and facilitate each other:

    1. Meet and work with the Guards. Articulate the experiences and fears of residents directly to the Superintendent and then formulate a plan together. It is imperative that this meeting happens as soon as possible.
    Residents spoke about solutions other communities had enacted with degrees of success and are keen to discuss the possibility of introducing some of the following into the area:
    · reserve guards – train people from the area
    · Neighbourhood angels – presence of 15 to 20 men on the ground with video cameras
    · Get young people to make amends with community service
    · Restorative justice – could this be a pilot scheme in Johnstown? (note below)
    · How to improve communications between Gardai and residents
    · Pulse system does not record instances of anti-social behaviour so it’s not building up a profile, how can this be changed?

    2. Engage with young people and their parents directly, positively and constructively and develop youth facilities in the Johnstown area
    · Youth needs to be engaged with directly. Youthclub Welcome and set up meeting in January will start this process.
    · Schools, can we talk to young people directly?

    Restorative Justice Scheme

    RJS is managed by a partnership of stakeholders in the criminal justice system including Probation and Welfare Service, Victim Support, An Garda Siochana and the wider community. Victims of crime and those who committed the offence can now communicate with each other through a voluntary, safe, non-threatening, facilitated process. It provides an opportunity for individuals involved to address the damage and hurt caused by the offending behaviour. Victims can seek an apology and/or some form of reparation from the offender. They can seek more information around the circumstance of the offence which may assist them with closure. Offenders can demonstrate remorse for their actions by offering an apology and/or providing information to the victims regarding the offence. They also have an opportunity to hear how their behaviour has affected the victim.

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