Home > Building community resilience: response to criminal networks in Dublin.

Guiney, Ciara (2020) Building community resilience: response to criminal networks in Dublin. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 73, Spring 2020, pp. 24-25.

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In December 2019, Four Forum Network (4Fora) and Dublin City Council published a report, Building community resilience: responding to criminal and anti-social behaviour networks across Dublin South Central.1 4Fora comprises four local policing fora in the Dublin South Central area, and the report was carried out in collaboration with An Garda Síochána.

Research aims

The research aimed to explore five areas:

1 Nature and spread of criminal and antisocial behaviour (ASB) networks.

2 Impact of these networks on people residing in Dublin South Central.

3 Relationships between socioeconomic indicators and the operation and impact of networks, including circumstances that enabled resilience.

4 Mapping and evaluation of existing initiatives, structures, and resources.

5 Requirements necessary to address impact and causes of these networks.


To address the research aims, several approaches were utilised to gather data:

Social network analysis

Interviews with Garda members using Twinsight methodology, developed in the Greentown study2

Socioeconomic analysis of network members

Mapping of crime and ASB hotspots

Attending local meetings

> Focus groups, involving community activists

Research ethics.


Nature and reach of criminal/ASB networks in Dublin South Central

Approximately 650 people were involved in the overall network, which could be stripped down to two distinct networks: Dublin South Central Network One (SCN1), consisting of 44 people, and Dublin South Central Network Two (SCN2), consisting of 52 people. Some of these network members committed crimes on at least one occasion between 2015 and 2016.

Impact of criminal networks on residents

Perceptions of the impact of criminal networks were provided by Garda respondents and local community activists. Similar to existing research findings in this area, the impact of criminal networks was considered to be hidden. Several themes emerged; for example, issues were identified in schools as a result of being associated with different networks. Drug debt was considered a route to engagement with networks and criminal behaviour, as were fear and easy access to money and material goods for young people. Lack of opportunities for young people also pushed them towards criminal network opportunities.

Community activist perspectives

The link between the frequency of criminal activity and economic deprivation has long been the focus of criminological research. In this study, according to the Pobal HP Deprivation Index map, the majority of members in SCN1 and SCN2 ranged from marginally below average to very disadvantaged, 86% and 88%, respectively.

Building resilience was viewed as a way to help communities provide community-based resolutions to tackle criminal networks and crime. Failure to consistently reinforce pro-social behaviour was cited by Garda respondents as an issue. It was acknowledged that some communities were able to ‘take a stand’ (p. 62) against ASB, however, other communities were not.

Initiatives, structures, and resources

An overview of current community safety structures, initiatives, and resources was provided. It was acknowledged by 4Fora that structures and functioning could be improved. Reluctance of communities to engage with Gardaí was highlighted. The issues dealt with across the structures were similar, such as lack of Garda resources; difficulties filling Garda vacancies; low Garda visibility; Garda response to calls on serious issues insufficient, in particular ASB in parks; criminal ‘hotspots’; intimidation; and gang-related feuding.

Care and control responses

Building a holistic approach to criminal issues in the community emerged as an area of importance. Involvement in community safety groups may have implications for personal safety; hence, residents are unwilling to participate. As a result, it falls to community-based workers to carry out this role. Two problems need to be considered: (a) keeping individuals who are willing to take part safe and (b) making sure that responses to criminal behaviour is not ‘enforcement oriented’ (p. 12), that is, responses are not about arresting individuals, carrying out surveillance, delivering warnings, and evictions. The authors acknowledged that while this was important, building resilience in communities needed a more subtle and viable approach.

Future guiding principles and action plan

The Building community resilience report can be viewed as a starting point for developing a strategy to address ASB and criminal behaviour in the Dublin South Central area. It identifies the main characteristics of the drug trade and ASB networks and elaborates on how it impacts on the community. The 4Fora have provided an outline strategy that identifies the vision, specific actions, and structural reforms necessary to implement it.

1. Connolly J and Mulcahy J (2019) Building community resilience: responding to criminal and anti-social behaviour networks across Dublin South Central – a research study. Dublin: Four Forum Network and Dublin City Council. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/31426/

2. Department of Children and Youth Affairs (2016) Lifting the lid on Greentown: why we should be concerned about the influence criminal networks have on children’s offending behaviour in Ireland. Dublin: Government Publications. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/26850/

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