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Posted: 24 May 2007

Research identifies social dimension to ‘joy-riding’

On the face of it, ‘joy-riding’ may appear to be a purely anti-social activity. However, according to a recent Irish study, there is a strong social element for those involved. ‘Joy-riders’ take the stolen cars to areas known as ‘flashing points’ were they demonstrate their driving skills to an assembled audience.

“The regular occurrence of young people burning ‘robbed cars’ in front of appreciative audiences goes unreported, in the absence of fatality,” says Dr Aogán Mulcahy, UCD School of Sociology, one of the co-authors of the report.

“Some joy-riding now involves burglaries undertaken specifically with a view to getting the keys to steal some modern cars. While other forms increasingly rely on cars bought for small sums of money and still others involve motor bikes which appear to be playing an increasingly prominent role.”

While joy-riding brings considerable excitement into the lives of many young people in deprived public housing areas – whether as drivers or as audience – it has major implications for the community where it takes place. “Many of the residents consider ‘joy-riding’ to be a blight on their community,” continues Dr Mulcahy. “They see it as bringing real danger and lasting disrepute to their area.”

“The area in which joy-riding is concentrated is one of the most deprived areas in Dublin,” says Michael Rush, UCD School of Applied Social Science, another co-author of the report, “and focussing on punitive rather than preventative measures is unlikely to significantly alleviate the problem.”

“Given the material conditions of the area in which joy-riding takes place, preventative measures, such as job training, job provision, and recreation facilities for young people, are likely, in the longer term, to prove more cost effective and successful in combating the nature, causes and impact of the activity,” explains Rush.

During the 1990s, residents and community activists marched on the homes of individuals suspected of ‘joy-riding’ in the Priorswood area to reduce the level of the activity, and ‘joy-riders’ are themselves aware of the level of concern, hostility and antagonism towards their behaviour which exists in the community.

In 1998, the Priorswood Task Force on Joy-Riding was established. And it can without doubt claim a significant degree of success in reducing the level of joy-riding in the area. But the activity still remains a major problem today.

The multi-agency partnership approach underpinning the Task force was vital to the development and implementation of co-ordinated approaches to the problem. But, according to the report, local residents criticise the impact of the activities of the Task Force and consider that it neither accommodates their views not addresses their concerns.

The report recommends that the Task Force be discontinued and that a community policing/safety forum (consistent with the legislative provisions of the Garda Siochana Act 2005) be established in its stead to include ‘joy-riding’ as part of a broader remit of community safety.

It also recommends the establishment of a Coordinated Joy-riding Intervention Network that would facilitate the sharing of information and best practice between the organisations concerned with joy-riding.

“An audit of the broad economic and social costs of joy-riding should be undertaken,” says Dr Mulcahy. “This would ensure that adequate resources could be targeted towards addressing the problem.”

The Nature and Impact of Joyriding in Priorswood, a report to the Priorswood Task-Force on Joyriding was co-authored by Michael Rush (UCD), Paula Brundell (TCD) and Dr Aoghán Mulcahy (UCD). It was published by the UCD School of Applied Social Science and the UCD School of Sociology, with the support of the UCD Geary Institute.


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