Why stuff matters / Why petty crime never is

I love Dublin so much – the last eighteen months bear witness to this – but if you had to ask me today where as a tourist you might go, I would be far more likely to tell you where you should undoubtedly steer clear of than ever blithely say where you definitely should eagerly venture.

My recently stolen and very unusual mobile phone has provoked zero interest in the Garda station I reported it at: one more mobile theft in O’Connell Street – no shit, Sherlock?  I even got gently victim-blamed for not taking more care myself.  Yet O’Connell Street is where all the coaches to Dublin Airport stop; where the Irish Primark Penney’s is to be found, for Chrissakes; where reputable fast-food franchises mint their fortunes; where iconic museums and shows are to be visited.

The Cheshire police back in the UK – consulted over the phone on two lengthy occasions – were more sympathetic to my case even where clearly out of their jurisdiction, and spent far more time giving me information I felt I needed, than the treatment I ever got in Dublin.  The Garda did take my details the day of the theft, but neglected or forgot to register what they perceived as just one more foreign idiot’s mischance.  Neither did they phone me back nor send a crime letter to where I am staying.

A good Irish friend and a closer English colleague both advised me to give up: “They’ll just cover each other’s arses!”  It’s what the hard-pressed – or inefficient – do all the time the world over.  It’s not an Irish thing at all: I understand this clearly.  It’s painfully poor bureaucracy we have here.

The problem here is that this phone was not a normal phone.  I am now recovering quickly – at last – from the pain of theft abroad, in a city and country I still love despite all.  But a phone, which in the wrong hands could do a lot of damage I will not specify for the moment, is being allowed to circulate out there, out of either the inefficiency mentioned or some other state-organised deliberateness.  

I have appealed for help on social media, in person to the Garda, and over the phone in Cheshire.  There is little more I can do.  Though, of course, if anything is carried out with the phone by those in whose possession it is now to be found, it will be my name as registered owner that will surely creep even further up the corresponding watchlist or watchlists of weird high-tech cases.

An injustice if there ever was one, and one which may unfairly taint the huge majority of good Dubliners and the city’s residents with the ink and implications of total surveillance strategies.

One final takeaway from all of this: if it was petty crime, not organised nor state, the implications on any tourist destination’s reputation are just as equally always going to be significant.  The damage both the criminals and the law-enforcement agencies perform, the one out of criminality, the other by tacitly leaving visitors to the mercy of locals who know where the CCTV and other street measures will be dysfunctional, is enormous.  Trust is always a tipping-point of massive consequences.  And its loss, dreadfully more so.

Those cities and thoroughfares the world over which ignore these realities do so at their medium-term peril.  I beg that Dublin, and the wider Ireland, does not continue to make these errors of political judgement.  I love you too much to want to continue being this afraid of the people who walk your streets.

And a final finally which I hope will allow me to show Dublin’s much kinder side: Powerscourt is a beautiful and idiosyncratic shopping centre about three minutes’ walk from Grafton Street.  I have just had a lovely lunch here – a lunch I am affording myself as I gird my loins for emotionally draining weeks to come.

As well as striving my very best to recover my sanity from events of the recent past.


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