A NUMBER of Cork families are turning to crime support services as a result of intimidating neighbours wreaking havoc in their neighbourhoods.
That’s according to the head of Support After Crime Services on Anglesea Street, Sally Hanlon who said the issue is becoming increasingly obvious during the third lockdown.
She added that people with a history of intimidating behaviour are being given houses by the City Council. Concerns have been raised about parties being thrown through the Covid-19 lockdown with fights breaking out and frequent noise and drinking.
Ms Hanlon voiced concern that, despite interventions from Gardaí, the gatherings and intimidating behaviour persists. Families, she said, are now having their lives turned upside down by constant harassment and intimidation.
“The council are moving people from one area to another,” Ms Hanlon said.
She described the situation for families as a nightmare.
“There were only meant to be four in one house but 15 ended up coming to live there,” she said of one case.
“Families who once lived in lovely areas are now going through hell. Many are terrified. There are parties with extremely high noise levels where people are sitting outside the front of the house. Sometimes there are fights breaking out. I know one lady who is living a nightmare.”
Ms Hanlon said the biggest challenge facing families is intimidation.
Sally Hanlon of the Support after Crime Services: People with a history of intimidating behaviour are being given houses by Cork City Council.
“There is pressure to shift them from the area where they are living. The house owners who are in those areas are not made aware of the problems being brought to their doorsteps. The biggest challenge is the intimidation. Locals are getting harassed and have no peace in their own homes. Even when Gardaí are called it doesn’t stop the behaviour. Once the Gardaí are gone it starts all over again.”
She spoke of how reporting such disturbances often comes with a cost.
“If the neighbour speaks up they will break a window or damage their car as a means to silence them. They are just not being made accountable. It’s gotten to a stage where people are afraid to look sideways because they know what the family is capable of.”
She described how some homeowners find it difficult to escape the situation.
“What’s even more difficult is that they know they won’t get tuppence for the house if they try to sell it, because of the situation.”
The crime prevention advocate stressed that the residents committing these crimes need to be held accountable.
‘I don’t know what the process is if the council has to evict someone. All I know is that the neighbour affected is in a horrifically difficult situation.”
Former Lord Mayor and local area rep, Chris O’Leary had his home firebombed by a youth in his community back in 2006 after speaking out about anti-social behaviour.
The then 17-year-old was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to an arson attack at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. Luckily, Mr O’Leary has been able to move on from the harrowing experience. For others, however, the nightmare continues.
“I have had this before,” Mr O’Leary said. “City Council should not be seen as any different to any other landlord. They have a duty of care but they neglect that. The council will never move people for anti-social behaviour. It’s the people who endure this that are left to pick up the pieces of their life. That’s only if they can. I’m seeing this tear apart families. In many cases relationships have broken down as a result of the strain.”
Mr O’Leary said he frequently receives concerns of this nature from constituents. His firsthand experience has led him to be a voice for others.
“I stood up for people in my community and ended up becoming a target. Being a target can break a person and I would advise any person going through this to contact Gardaí.
Chris O’Leary: I stood up for people in my community and ended up becoming a target. I would advice anyone going through this to contact the gardaí.
“I believe that people with these backgrounds should have to go through a tenancy programme, rather than getting handed a key for life. They should be given the opportunity to prove that any mistake they made in the past was a once-off and correct their behaviour. Instead, it is being left to affect the wider community. When people fail with all the supports stern action needs to be taken.” Mr O’Leary said that families living in fear deserve more support.
“Anti-social behaviour is a nasty term and I have been demonised for using the word in my own community but this is about facing up to what is really happening and working through it as a community. It should be addressed before it gets to court.
“It is very traumatic for a family to have to face their neighbours in a courtroom and every effort should be made to prevent this from happening.”
A spokesperson for Cork City Council said that all prospective tenants are vetted before being allocated social housing.
“Cork City Council vets all prospective tenants before allocating a social housing unit. Everyone should be able to enjoy their home and neighbourhood in peace and quiet. In the first instance we encourage neighbours to discuss problems that arise between them. However, if the matter cannot be resolved or is serious then our Housing Officers are available to help where one of the parties is a council tenant; Council or private residents can contact any of our area offices to make a complaint,” the spokesperson said.
“We will investigate any potential tenancy compliance matter and then take the appropriate action in accordance with our anti-social behaviour policy. It is important to note that any criminal activity should be reported to An Garda Síochána.
“Covid-19 restrictions have limited the availability of the courts and have also placed a ban on evictions on occasions over the past year. No tenants have been evicted this year. Tenants evicted on the grounds of anti-social behaviour will be regarded as having deliberately rendered themselves homeless and will not be re-considered for inclusion on the housing list for a number of years.”
To find out more about Support after Crime Services visit www.supportaftercrimeservices.ie. The organisation is a voluntary service for people affected by crime including victims of crime and witnesses to crime.