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Editorial: Scourge of car criminals

ANYONE who has been in the proximity of a car being driven recklessly at speed will have some idea of the terror experienced by gardaí who were rammed in Dublin this week.

Footage has been widely shared on social media of a car smashing head-on into a Garda vehicle while people jeer at the side of the road.

The shocking video of dangerous driving was recorded in the Cherry Orchard suburb in west Dublin on Monday evening.

The Garda officers involved were not injured but were understandably left traumatised – and the consequences could have been much worse. The occupants of either car could easily have been seriously hurt or worse, while other road users and those looking on just yards away were also put in serious danger.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris described the incident as "disgraceful and concerning" and said the force's public order unit had been stood up.

The Garda Representative Association warned that while the video may shocking to the public, officers have become accustomed to a "rising tide of people who are willing to challenge, confront and attack gardaí".

Questions are being asked about whether frontline units are well enough resourced, including with car and body-worn cameras.

The potentially devastating consequences of car crime are sadly all too familiar to communities north of the border and Mr Harris in his previous role with the PSNI.

Sometimes euphemistically described as 'joyriding' – or more accurately 'death-driving' – car crime was a scourge of many urban and rural areas for many years and a source of heartbreak for dozens of families.

The group Families Bereaved Through Car Crime was set up after the death of 15-year-old Debbie McComb, when a stolen car ploughed into a group of people on the Springfield Road in west Belfast in 2002.

Its relentless campaigning helped bring about a change in the law, creating a new offence and tougher sentences, while a dedicated police auto unit was also credited with helping to lower crime rates.

To drive at speed towards a pedestrian or other road user is to use a car as a deadly weapon and deserves a policing and criminal justice response reflecting the gravity of the offence.

Tackling the attitudes which give rise to such reckless behaviour also requires a multi-disciplinary approach involving education and probation services working with the community.

Society owes it to gardaí and all those whose lives are put at risk by car crime to ensure that work is prioritised.

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