THE YOUNG men and women of the Gardá who patrol our city street find themselves confronted with every possible type of incident and crisis.
Store Street station, which covers the Garda 'C' District in the Dublin North Central Division has responsibility for O'Connell Street and surrounding streets immediately north of the River Liffey.In police circles it is probably the most famous and toughest beats in Ireland. It is the busiest station in the country and provides the young Gardá with a thorough training ground in Real-Life policing.On a recent Saturday night the Sunday World went on patrol with the "Store Street Blues" to see at first hand the kind of dramas they are forced to deal with every weekend.And a Drug-Crazed thug who tried his hand at canabalisim and a wealthy prostitute were just two of the characters they encountered.
We joined the tree-person crew of a special patrol van, call sign, Charlie Alpha 25 as they worked their shift between 10.00pm and 6.00am."When you put on your uniform and go out for an eight hour shift you don't know what to expect. Here in Store Street you experience every type of incident you can imagine which makes the job very interesting," explained Sergeant John Stratford who is in charge of CA 25 as they prepared to go on patrol."And if tonight is anything like last night we wont have a minute and you'll certainly have lots to see," warned the Sergeant who has been in the Gardá for over eleven years.
The previous night had certainly been busy.There had been over 25 arrests and several pursuits involving a number of know car thieves.During the night the so-called joy riders had rammed three of the Store Street squad cars and vans. And the neighboring district at Fitzgibbon Street two more Garda cars were written off in the car theft mayhem.Fortunately no one had been injured and them same policemen and women were back on duty for another night of action.
Before the night shift commenced the 35 Gard́ and Sergeants who make up the Saturday night shift had been briefed about what to expect during the next eight hours as they gathered in Store Street,s main parade room."Be aware that we may have some of the same car thefts tonight so mind yourselves out there," Inspector Francis Clerkin, the officer in charge, warned his staff."We have rugby fans in town tonight. They're generally a happy bunch so send them on their way if they get messy after closing time. But do not tolerate any fighting, urinating on the street or any other public order violations," he reminded his people.
And from the moment CA25 hit the streets with the other Store Street patrols it was non-stop action throughout the night. "It normally doesn't get really busy until the pubs and clubs close. After that you have thousands of drunken people on the streets and there are plenty of fights," said Sgt. Stratford as he and his colleagues, Gardá Treassa Kelly, and Niall Murphy searched three youths suspected of an assault.Treassa Kelly(24) has been a qualified Garda since December 2000. And the former UCD arts student loves the job. "There are no two days the same, you just don't know what to expect.It really is a great training ground here and everyone works very closely as a team".
Niall Murphy(30) has been qualified for over five years and has spent his service so far with the Store Street Blues."I have got a good all round experience of policing here. I was on the beat and then worked as a community Garda before joining the Crime Task Force(CTF) which acts as a back-up to other units in the North Central Division," explained Niall who gave up a job as an electronics engineer to be in the Garda."I like the job. It has its good days. The good times are when you know that you have genuinely helped someone." " You rarely get thanks but you know yourself that you have done some good for someone, that you helped make all the difference," he added.
Garda Ronan Judge(21) has been a qualified Garda for just over five months and, like several of his young colleagues, has been thrown in at the deep end which is Dublin's inner-city beat."I love it here because there is always something different. I couldn't handle being stuck in an office from nine-to-five.When you are on foot patrol around here everything and anything happens," said Ronan who had been a motor sport mechanic before joining the team that makes a difference.
These pictures show some of the action as Gardá made arrests for every kind of offence from breach of the peace to carrying offensive weapons and assault.
But the most chilling event of the night occurred shortly after 2.30am when the crew of CA 25 were called to a nightclub with a reputation for trouble.In the rear to the club Sgt. Stratford and his crew were shown two young men both clutching their ears. Blood ran in rivers down their arms and faces.It transpired that while the two guys were dancing with friends a thug walked up behind one of them and literally bit a lump off one of his ears.
The thug then lunged at the second youth and sunk his teeth in his ear but was fought off before he could do the same damage.Garda Treasa Kelly arrested the "Cannibal" who was identified by his two victims.She then took details from the victims in order to get statements of complaint about the incident after they had received medical attention.Garda John Stratford shone a torch on the suspect who was obviously out of his head and confirmed what the victims had already told Gardá.
The suspect's mouth was smeared with blood. He was brought back to Store Street where Garda Kelly processed him before putting him in the cells for the rest of the night.
The cannibal safely locked up CA 25 were back on patrol. An urgent call was received that a fight had broken out in a busy fast food joint on O'Connell Street.
In minutes several Gardá were at the scene and the trouble was quickly stopped. The crowd was dispersed and a number of the troublemakers were arrested. Then another urgent call came through that two cars traveling in convoy down O'Connell Street. The caller to the Garda 999 service described the cars and claimed that a firearm was being carried in one of the them.
CA 25 and three other units quickly spotted the cars and they were immediately surrounded. After a thorough search the call was deemed to be a false alarm and the cars let go.
In Pearse Street and Store Street stations a total of eighty CCTV cameras provide vital back-up to the officers on the ground. The full-colour scan the streets and side streets and regularly direct Gardá on the beat to drug dealers and assault suspects.
Shortly after 3:00am a bus inspector flagged down CA 25. At that time the city centre is heaving with thousands of drunk people as they make there way to the Nitelink bus service to go home. four drunken youths had been throwing racist abuse at a black bus driver. They are hauled off the bus, cautioned and ordered to walk home in the rain.
In another incident a Welsh rugby supporter decided to go for a swim in the River Liffey under O'Connell Bridge. Every week the Gardai are called to rescue people who either fall into the river, try to commit suicide or, in a state of drunken bravado, decide to go for a swim in the freezing water.This time Sgt. Stafford advises the swimmer of the dangers of jumping into the river.
"You could easily suffer hypothermia and get a seizure in the cold water. You also run the risk of contracting Weal's disease. On top of that you are taking up the time of the emergency services which could be assisting a genuine call for help. If we see you doing it again then you will be arrested," Sgt Stratford warned the rugby fan as he stood dripping wet and holding his clothes.
Suddenly his swim was no longer such a good idea or indeed funny. He took the Garda advice and trudged off to his hotel. At 4:00am CA 25 and another unit were called to an apartment block off O'Connell Street where the residents had detained a suspected burglar.But the call turned out to be much more than the police had expected.
A man and woman claimed to be locked out to their apartment. The man who was known to the Gardá was taken aside and quizzed about what he had really been up to. But after about ten minutes the intuitive officers rumbled to the true story.The man was a pimp and the woman an English national of Filipino extract, a prostitute.
Sgt. Stratford and his team had to break in the appartment door to search inside with the prostitute's permission. During the search they found over €2,500 in cash hidden in the kitchen oven.The prostitute who had been flown in for a two-week stint agreed to make a statement and took the advantage of the Garda advice you get the morning flight home to England.The money was seized and the woman told that her pimp was welcome to try and apply for its return under a Police Property Application Act."I doubt that we`ll be hearing from his legal representatives but we`ll conduct an investigation and i'm sure we`ll catch up with him," the sergeant remarked as the Garda van returned to Store Street.
It was 6:00am and torrential wind and rain had finally cleared the streets . The night shift were going home for a well-earned rest as the next shift came on duty to deal with the new drama and a new day......