Today marks the start of a series of articles in the Irish Times by Ronan McGreevy, focussing on the problem of “environmental vandalism” within this country. The series of articles will touch everything from fly-tipping to graffiti and other small crimes. I suggest that anyone who still thinks that we live in an idyllic island of scenic beauty should most definitely read these articles and receive their wake-up call. The effect that small crime and anti-social behaviour is having is unfathomable.
Following is a brief account of the torment that I have gone through in the past 14 months:
Since February 2006, the estate where I live has been invaded by gangs of youths who are not from the estate, have no friends within and occupy its green areas with no other reason than to cause trouble. In the past 14 months we have had stones thrown at our house windows, our cars have been vandalised and also other aspects of our property. I have witnessed damage to neighbours property (broken windows, etc) and observed the constant intimidation offered up by these youths to cars entering the estate, by throwing stones or simply standing in line of and blocking the vehicle.
I should point out at this stage that I do not live in a dodgy area of Waterford. In fact it is a very nice suburb with many respectable folk who have all had enough of this nonsense. The youths in question are all aged from as little as 7 up to about 16 or 17 – it’s like an army of apprentice vandals set to cause trouble for years to come. What’s worse is that they know they can get away with it, as long as they are under 16 they can’t be prosecuted and by God do they abuse that fact. We experience trouble at any hour of any day. The parents, obviously, do not care.
All members of the gang originate from a nearby council estate – part of Waterford City’s
futile wonderful social inclusion scheme. Here lies the biggest piece of the problem’s source. These schemes of putting a council estate with known problem families in a nice area to help societal integration is a complete joke. The attitude of the council is to establish the estate, put the families in and forget about it, thinking that everything will just work. Sure, what a great strategy! All that does is create a “them and us” situation without any form of interaction other than what I have been observing for the past year. Further more in Waterford, these placed council estates only ever seem to effect the houses of one developer in particular, that in itself is an issue I would like to look further into.
When these social inclusion schemes are drawn up, instead of letting them run organically, they should include community centres for kids of the area to get to know each other and form respecting friendships, committees whereby parents from all neighouring estates can get together and meet each other to discuss problems of the overall area and not just one estate. Without forming these links in society, inclusion and integration will never happen. It will always be them and us. The two possible scenarios are that little Johnny knows you and is jealous of your car or bicycle or whatever and always comes around to look at it and talks to you about how he dreams of having one when he grows up or the alternative where little Johnny doesn’t know you, doesn’t care about you, will never need to get on with you and decides that if he can’t have something nice he’ll try to destroy what you have. The latter is my current reality.
I don’t know any of the kids involved in this other than being able to identify faces that I see regularly, hovering about the estate. I have never had conflict or caused any problem with them, never even asked them to move on. Out of nowhere has this behaviour been borne. So please think long and hard before you vote this year, this country needs to re-integrate its people. It needs to stop this anti-social network that it has created through “them and us” communities. It needs to wake-up to the problems of environmental vandalism and anti-social behaviour that may not affect everyone’s doorstep but damages the country as a whole. Tax breaks and otherwise are not the best policies to vote for. Anyone who knows me, knows that I drive a nice car and I have a nice home, benefits of having worked hard for many years. I would gladly give all of them up for a peaceful night’s sleep or not having my morning routine to include checking for signs of vandalism, or simply not having to jump to a vantage point anytime I hear noise or whistling nearby…