Home > Report of the Strategic Response Group – ‘A better city for all’.

Connolly, Johnny (2012) Report of the Strategic Response Group – ‘A better city for all’. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 43, Autumn 2012 , pp. 4-5.

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The Strategic Response Group (SRG) is a partnership set up to address public substance misuse and perceived anti-social behaviour in Dublin city centre. In June 2012, following a year-long process of research and consultation, it published a report aimed at addressing this issue in the long term.1 The report was officially launched by the lord mayor of Dublin, Councillor Andrew Montague, in one of his last engagements as mayor. The issue of anti-social behaviour related to substance misuse in Dublin city centre has long been a focus of media attention and public concern.

The outgoing mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague, launches the SRG report in the Oak Room of the Mansion House; also shown are SRG members (l to r): Mel MacGiobhúin, North Inner City LDTF; Richard Guiney, Dublin City BID; Niamh Randall, Dublin Simon Community; Des Crowley, City Clinic Amiens Street; and Ruaidhrí McAuliffe, UISCE.

Following the establishment in 2010 of the Dublin City Local Business Policing Forum, this issue became a recurring item of discussion. A number of agencies and organisations were invited to make presentations on the topic. Arising from this, the Strategic Response Group (SRG) was formed with the objective of developing ways to build sustainable street-level drug services and address related public nuisance. The SRG is independently chaired and its membership includes representatives of: the four main drug treatment centres in Dublin city centre (Ana Liffey Drug Project, the City Clinic, Drug Treatment Centre Board, Merchants Quay Ireland); An Garda Síochána; Dublin City Business Improvement District; Dublin City Council; Dublin Simon Community; the North Inner City Local Drugs Task Force; the South Inner City Local Drugs Task Force and the Union for Improved Services, Communication and Education (UISCE).

The SRG commissioned a study to provide an evidence base to assist it in developing its response and recommendations.2 The study used a Rapid Assessment Research (RAR) method to assemble an evidence base around perceived anti-social behaviour associated with the provision of drug treatment in Dublin’s city centre upon which to build a strategic response incorporating short/medium/long term goals and actions within the area. The RAR combined various research methods and data sources in order to construct an overview of the problem by cross-checking and comparing the information from several different sources, which included the following:
 
Ø A critical review of literature.
Ø PULSE data for the research area was analysed and provided by An Garda Síochána.
Ø A mapping exercise inclusive of an environmental visual assessment using digital photographs to view the geographical distribution of drug- and alcohol-related public nuisance was undertaken to assess levels of ‘hotspots’ for public nuisance, anti-social drug- and alcohol-using congregations, drug-related littering, alcohol retail outlets and placement of drug treatment, housing, policing and community services in the area.
Ø Interviews and focus groups were conducted with business and transport stakeholders (n=19), community, voluntary and statutory stakeholders (n=19), and service users (n=23). Random street intercept surveys were conducted with passers-by (n=25) and with drug users (n=26).
 
Research limitations
The research is exploratory and limited by small sample size. However, despite the small numbers of participants, the validity and accuracy of the findings are optimised by the use of triangulated data sources from PULSE data relevant to the area, service-user perspectives, business and transport, community, voluntary and statutory stakeholder perspectives, passers-by and street problematic drug-user perspectives, photographical and environmental mapping analysis.  
Key findings
Definitions and experiences of anti-social behaviour
A continuum of acceptable versus non-acceptable forms of public behaviours, and level of impact between anti-social, nuisance and criminal elements of the behaviours was described in the research. A range of definitions of anti-social behaviour was recorded in the interview narratives, with anti-social behaviour deemed to be (typically) illegal, causing interference, visual and physical intimidation, and feeling unsafe, impacting negatively on businesses, services, customers, tourists and individuals accessing the area whether on foot, in private transport or on public transport. Particular anti-social activities mentioned included; visible drinking and drug use, intoxication, aggressive and loud behaviour, youth and child drinking and drug dealing on the streets, phone snatching, graffiti, night-time alcohol abuse, mobile phone theft, harassment, street assaults, begging/’tapping’ on the street and at Luas ticket machines, car break-ins, pick-pocketing and other petty crimes. Pulse data reflected drug crime detections which correspond closely with typical business hours, peaking between the hours of 10am and 5pm. A clear distinction between specific quadrants is presented in terms of crime profile, which corresponds to the predominant commercial activity of these areas, retail and night-time entertainment respectively. Quadrant 6 is significantly different to all other areas of the study, due to the inclusion of Temple Bar, which has its own specific crime profile. Property crime is associated with the retail areas and public order offences are associated with the night-time entertainment areas.
Perceptions of threat and intimidation in the research area
Negative media portrayal of anti-social behaviour in the research area was described. The urban design and poor lighting of certain streets was mentioned in the interviews and focus groups as contributing to perceptions of fear and lack of safety. Tourists and visitors who were spoken to during ‘walkabouts’ in the research area had not observed any forms of anti-social behaviour, and reported feeling safe and happy with the Garda presence in the area. However, those working in the area had all observed anti-social behaviour, had felt intimidated, and reported feeling unsafe in the area both during the day, and at night time. 
The SRG, in seeking to address perceptions of drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour, acknowledges that for historical reasons there is a clustering of drug treatment and homelessness services in or adjacent to the inner city. While these services play a major role in the provision of effective treatment to problematic drug users, the report recommends that there should be greater access to prompt provision of treatment options nationally and that people should be treated and accommodated in the most appropriate setting for their circumstances and provided with support services as close to their home as possible.
 
The report takes a holistic approach to addressing the issues of the city centre. The group has set out its recommendations in the short, media and long term and under the headings of treatment, rehabilitation, homelessness, policing responses, planning and urban design, legislation and regulation and implementation. The SRG is currently developing an implementation plan for its recommendations.
 
 
1.     Strategic Response Group (2012) A better city for all: a partnership approach to address public substance misuse and perceived anti-social behaviour in Dublin city centre. Dublin: Strategic Response Group. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/17769
2.     An executive summary of the research is provided in the SRG report. The SRG intends to publish the full report at a later date.
Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 43, Autumn 2012
Date:October 2012
Page Range:pp. 4-5
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 43, Autumn 2012
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Electronic Only)
Subjects:MM-MO Crime and law > Crime and violence
MM-MO Crime and law > Crime prevention
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland > Dublin
MM-MO Crime and law > Justice system > Community anti-crime or legal assistance programme
L Social psychology and related concepts > Marital relations > Family and kinship > Family structure > Family support
L Social psychology and related concepts > Marital relations > Family and kinship > Family and substance use > Substance related family problems

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