Cork city has seen a huge spike in stolen cars over the past year and a half, many of which are used for joyriding.

Cork’s ‘wild west’ joyriding scene must end

A culture of competitive joyriding in Cork city has been helped by “lawless” social media platforms as Leeside car theft numbers have rapidly risen post-Covid.

That’s according to Cork psychotherapist Richard Hogan who says many vulnerable teenagers in Cork are being left behind by society and falling into extremely dangerous criminal activities.

Mr Hogan, who is the Clinical Director at Therapy Institute, has spent much of his career working with teenagers and says early intervention is key to keeping them away from a life of crime.

He said most teenagers are yet to develop the part of the brain that truly comprehends the dangers and possible life-destroying outcomes of thrill-seeking activities like joyriding.

Social media

Recently in Cork reports have emerged of gangs of youths stealing specific types of cars for the sole purpose of joyriding and filming their activities for social media platforms such as TikTok.

Hours after one such video was posted in Cork in July, 16 year old Johnny Foley from Spur Hill in Cork city’s southside was killed while riding as a passenger in a stolen car as it drove the wrong way down the M8 motorway. The other teens in the car were left with life-changing injuries, as was the innocent woman driving the car they collided with.

Mr Horgan said social media platforms urgently need to be regulated in order to save lives but ultimately will continue to operate as they are as long as views and profits keep rolling in.

“It's like the wild west, there's no law there to protect our children and so, there's competition there to do the most reckless behaviour to create a reputation. So, the more dangerous activities you get involved in, the more street cred you get,” he told the Cork Independent.

He added: “They (social media platforms) never will (take responsibility). It's like asking porn providers to check if viewers are 18. They don't care what age you are, it's all about money.”

Car theft rise

According to CSO figures, car theft and related crimes in Cork city increased by almost 200% between 2020 and 2022. In 2020, 193 vehicle theft offences were reported in the city. This number increased to 213 in 2021 amidst Covid-19 lockdowns. In 2022, 575 vehicle theft offences were recorded in Cork city alone.

Earlier this year, gardaí investigated a surge in thefts of certain second-hand car models imported from the Asian market which do not have immobilisers installed. An immobiliser is a security device which prevents a car from being started unless the key is present.

Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, said joyriders are “terrifying” communities across Cork.

“We need to tackle this. Cars are bought in cash for the sole purpose of joyriding, and people are driving these cars through terrorised communities at ferocious speeds,” he said.

Vulnerable teenagers

According to Mr Hogan, addiction in the home, a lack of proper parenting, prejudice, and exclusion can all contribute to thrill-seeking illegal behaviour in adolescents.

He said many kids who fall into anti-social behaviour come from very poor economic backgrounds whose parents could suffer from issues like addiction.

“There are a lot of reasons why a parent might not be parenting,” he said. “In my experience working clinically, often the parents aren't capable of raising their kids, and that's a serious issue.

“Often times the child is so difficult to manage that they remove them from the system, so you've got a child who is school-less and doing nothing. What hope has that child got? They often end up thrill-seeking because they've got poor impulse control,” said Mr Hogan.

He also stressed that not every teenager from such backgrounds will get involved with criminal activity. “That's a huge thing around inclusion, it's driving me mad,” Mr Hogan continued.

“We're very good at flying flags, and that's fantastic, but what about the kids who really don't take to education? What about the kids who economically are deprived?

“A lot of kids are living in chaos with addiction and all sorts of things going on, and then we're shocked when they're involved in anti-social behaviour when the society that they're in rejects them.”