«Edited by Mike Tomlinson Tony Varley Ciaran McCullagh Studies in Irish Society 1. Are They Always Right? Investigation and Proof in a Citizen ...»
Aspects of Crime and Social Control
in Irish Society
Studies in Irish Society
Are They Always Right?
Investigation and Proof in a Citizen
Up out of a sea-misted Dun Laoghaire side-street emerges a
solitary figure muffled in a long olive great-coat. He has spent his
night tracking the movements of a number of men and women. He
has gathered reports from regular contacts who constantly watch for these persons. He has made spot checks on known haunts of his targets, who are suspected heroin dealers. In the morning 'Long- coat' will be joined by a statuesque blonde woman for the surveillance of certain local public places. This is a dangerous pursuit. But though the two are experienced detectives, they are not paid private investigators. Nor have they any connection with the Garda Siochana.1 Across Dublin in Dolphin's Barn near the snooker hall a young man detaches himself from a group of long-term heroin addicts, crosses South Circular Road and walks towards the large corporation complex of Dolphin House. Two loca] men follow him. They watch him call to a flat in Dolphin House, return to the group outside the snooker hall and distribute something among the addicts. The resident of the flat has already been reported to the observers as a heroin pusher in O'Connell Street. At another time one of these observers, in his own car, will follow the car of a local resident wherever the trail takes him, noting all contacts made by the man he is shadowing. The other will drive his own car to various locations looking for certain vehicle licence numbers and recording the movements of those registrations. Neither of these men have any connection with the Garda Siochana. Their expenses are paid entirely from their own pockets.
North of the Liffey, three street traders scatter their scantly- 71 laden prams outside a cafe. Over their teacups they will observe who comes and goes into the pub opposite. Tomorrow the same three women will have tea in a different cafe, for the purpose of observing the activities and identities of fellow customers.
These investigators are members of the Concerned Parents Against Drugs (CPAD) movement, a private citizen organisation which operates against the heroin racket throughout the Dublin metropolitan area. The movement, which began in the summer of 1983, continues vigorous, expanding, and highly organised, in the late nineteen-eighties. Local public meetings about heroin pushing, evictions from their homes of alleged drug pushers, pressure by Concerned Parents on government ministers and local authorities to take action against the heroin trade, and court cases against Concerned Parents activists have, one or the other of them, been weekly events during 1987 and 1988.
Concerned Parents is an extensive movement, involved in education about drugs, other preventative measures to eliminate or reduce initial heroin addiction, detoxification and aftercare services for addicts, as well as the harrassment and eviction from homes of alleged heroin pushers and their facilitators. This article, however, deals only with one aspect of the movement: assessing the investigation work through which evidence is gathered on the identity and guilt of pushers prior to sanctions being taken against them Jhlow does the process operate? Does it safeguard the rights of all involved? Could innocent persons be evicted from their homes for misguided reasons, emotional reasons alone or as a result of a vendetta unrelated to heroin selling. What kinds of evidence do the Concerned Parents have? Are they always right?
The kind of justice embodied by a movement such as the Concerned Parents has been described as popular justice. This is dispute resolution and crime control carried out by citizens rather than officials, and bv workers rather than professionals. But the term popular justice can also, in the hands of some writers, distinguish a genuine social movement. Sociologically, the kind of popular justice about to be described raises fundamental issues.
The nature of contemporary urban community and its possibilities for the future is the first of these. The structure of Western political thought and ideology, or part of it, and with that, the nature of social order and social control themselves, are the second and third fundamental issues—precisely as they relate to one another. To some of these matters we can return after the evidence has been presented.2 To begin with, a few introductory words about the structure of the Concerned Parents movement are necessary.
Concerned Parents: Structure of the Movement A general point about the Concerned Parents needs to be made. It is not an anti-drugs movement but an anti-heroin movement. This aspect needs to be made clear. Heroin has been seen to be the lifeand-death problem in Dublin in the eighties. Alcohol, hashish and other substances are not at issue although some local groups may also take a dim view of certain other drugs. Only 'crack' is exceptional and opposed as totally as heroin.
The brains of the CPAD is its Central Committee, meeting weekly throughout the year and made up of two representatives from each organised local area which is affiliated.3 An Executive Committee, sometimes meeting separately, performs the specialised tasks common to most organisations. Executive Committee deliberation also, however, furthers the daily work against the heroin trade, as of course do the local committees and local members—the main element of the movement. Wherever even two Concerned Parents are gathered together, locally or centrally, the investigation goes on.
Despite the appearance of centralisation suggested by the existence of central and executive committees, it is a mistake to think of the Concerned Parents movement as one directed by a guiding coterie. Only in part is such the case. Each local area maintains its own ethos and has its own criteria for attacking its problems. 'Different strokes for different folks' is an expression often used to make this point by members. An Annual General Meeting of all members of affiliated groups also supercedes Central Committee prerogative. When, however, attention is especially directed, as in the present article, to investigatory and detection work, the role of the Central Committee is indeed great.
The watchful street-traders already mentioned, for example, are peering over their teacups at the behest of the Central Committee, rather than as an outgrowth of the work of the North Inner City group to which they belong locally.
Most significant among the localities of CPAD organisation
and action are the following areas, estates, or complexes:
Ballyfermot/Clondalkin; Dolphin House/Dolphin's Barn; Dun Laoghaire/Sallynoggin/Bray; Finglas South, Inchicore/St.
Michael's; Cathedral View; the North Inner City and Hardwicke Street; St. Teresa's Gardens; and eight separate areas of Tallaght.
Procedures used to establish guilt of drug pushing appear to differ greatly from one of these areas to another. Proof is obviously simplest when no attempt is made by the pusher to conceal the activity. Some three hundred addicts bought heroin daily in St.
Teresa's Gardens in early 1983. The situation was the same just north of O'Connell Street in the flats around North Frederick Street. Much of this trade was carried on openly. Even the first approaches by the newly-organised Concerned Parents groups in May and June of that year did not drive the trade into concealment. The pushers were unruffled. They saw no reason to bother concealing what they did. But in other parts of the city and later into the eighties, the heroin dealer is extremely difficult to ferret out. When one moves from St. Teresa's Gardens and Dolphin House of 1983 to Clondalkin, Ballymun, and O'Connell Street of 1988, investigation procedures have become complex, laborious and difficult.
But whatever about local variations, when we turn to the entirety of CPAD detection we find that all localities will use whatever means are necessary from among the myriad detection methods included under the following five general headings.4 Parental Reports and Prima Facie Evidence Everything depends, in CPAD work, on the residents of the problem localities. Without mass support and door-to-door cooperation—as every CPAD activist knows—there is nothing.
Everything depends on people being concerned as parents and neighbours. And among the most concerned of parents are the parents of heroin addicts. In Dun Laoghaire, the mother of two addicted sons secured their debarrment from her home as a part of the Concerned Parents movement there. In Bray, the mother of an addict headed the local CPAD. Many suffering parents of addicts have come forward to identify their own as addicts or pushers, either in order to seek detoxification help or to have daughters or sons warned that they must reform or suffer ostracism, debarrment, or eviction. Parents of addicts have come forward both as initiators of local groups, and during the thick of CPAD pressure.
Addict families have provided also some of the best evidence against pushers. When an addict is living at home, the source of his her heroin supplies may sooner or later become known to family members. A telephone order can as easily identify a pusher as can personal contact. The contribution of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, must be emphasised first in the consideration of the Concerned Parents information network.
Equally at the foundation of things is the community at large.
The transfer and sale of heroin has tangible signs, just as does the usage of heroin. And the ears and eyes of the community are numberless. What do they hear, what do they see, what indeed do they smell?
The act of self-injection is an indication not alone of the presence of heroin addicts, but also of the presence of heroin sellers. Addicts often take their fix near the place where they have obtained the drug, because the need is great. Therefore the discovery of injection syringes lying about in quiet corners, and the witnessing of persons injecting themselves, may be regarded as among the first of the signs of possible pushing activities. By the same logic, the presence of persons visibly well stoned can be an indicator of a place of supply. The regular appearance in the same location of persons who are obviously high on drugs produces the probability that they are inducing the high in that location. This indicator is, in itself, not necessarily an indicator of heroin pushing, for two reasons. First, the drug in question could be a different drug. Second, certain houses of flats are on offer to addicts for 'shooting up'—for a fee or for free. One former dealer in Dun Laoghaire actually ceased selling heroin in order to go into the business of opening his house to addicts for a wash and an injection, at £5 a visit. In all cases of CPAD intervention, the presence of stoned individuals involves, or at least includes, heroin rather than other drugs as a cause of the drugged effect. This is certain because additional evidence of the heroin trade has been found in every case.
Congregated groups of known addicts provide another such clue. The purpose of such congregations is so often the collection of heroin that a maxim of Concerned Parents' investigative work has come to be: 'where you find four, five, or six addicts there is going to be a drop'. Such congregations have put CPAD on the track of numerous dealers.
Patterned activity of certain sorts yields further indicators.
Taxis arriving extraordinarily frequently and a steady stream of strange young callers at a particular place can suggest that heroin may be available there. Addicts often employ taxis in travelling for a purchase. Many such journeys are made at hours of the night unusual enough to have drawn attention to heroin dealers, as in the North Inner City and in Dolphin House. Strange young callers arrived constantly at a house off York Road in Dun Laoghaire for a period, observed by neighbours, of seven or eight months. These callers often queued in numbers outside the house. Eventually it became obvious that no great attempt was being made to conceal extensive heroin sales from two houses in this cul-de-sac.
The regular arrival of the same vehicle at a location is another indicator which in conjunction with other clues, has led CPAD to pushers. Dominick Street residents in Dun Laoghaire gradually became aware that the regular appearance of a green van correlated with the congregation of addicts in the vicinity of the van's parking place. Sales from this van were witnessed.
Direct witnessing of heroin sale is the ultimate proof.
Eyewitness evidence is therefore the goal of CPAD investigative work, but even more importantly, finding eye-witnesses among the community. Sales from the green van just mentioned had been seen by a shop assistant, and by other Dominick Street residents, early on in its nefarious career. But although the Gardai has been informed this remained private information for some time, none realising what others had also seen, none making it part of community knowledge. Transformation of this private knowledge into community knowledge awaited the organisation of a citizen action group.
Heroin sales have often been witnessed by members of the public. Heroin is 'sold openly just like sweets to the kids around here', a woman from Cathedral View Walk, off Kevin Street, told news reporters. 'Every day heroin was being handed out to addicts from all over Dublin' (Irish Independent, 24 October, 1985). Near Dolphin House a young boy witnessed a sale and watched the buyer bury what he had purchased. Nine packs of heroin and syringes were dug up. The work of the Concerned Parents Against Drugs movement has been to encourage this woman, this boy, and others like them, to speak out about what they have seen. To that effort and related fundamentals we now turn.