Now is not the time to ease off the pressure on the gangs as Thor starts to take effect
Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30
The burglary epidemic which gripped large swathes of the country in recent years has abated somewhat, according to CSO figures.
It seems that Operation Thor, a well-funded initiative allowing gardaí to target roving criminal gangs and implement other anti-burglary measures, has played a major part in this.
So it is disappointing that the future of the initiative is less than certain.
Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is non-committal on its future after the end of this year. A re-evaluation will take place and the future of the operation may well hinge on how much budgetary pressure the Government is under at the time.
Ms Fitzgerald has said that other anti-burglary measures will be kicking in by then, including laws allowing for the electronic tagging of offenders and the denial of bail to repeat offenders.
But it would be terribly unfortunate if, for the sake of a few million euro, gardaí were deprived of the resources to keep their foot on the throats of the burglary gangs.
Operation Thor has been relentless and intensive, requiring the deployment of considerable resources.
But it clearly is working.
According to the CSO data, robbery, burglary and theft are down almost across the board. This was after a significant rise early in 2015.
Since then, there has been a dramatic decline and the level of these crimes is now lower than it was at the beginning of the decade.
It is also lower than immediately after the closure of 139 garda stations.
Nationally, robbery, extortion and hijacking offences are down 31.3pc on 2010, 26pc on 2013, when the station closures took place, and 20.4pc since last year.
Burglary and related offences are down 1.2pc on 2010, 7.3pc on 2013 and 36.4pc in the past year.
Theft and related offences are down 9.7pc on 2010, 11.8pc on 2013 and 17.4 in the past year.
Even the areas worst affected by garda station closures have seen decreases in these crimes.
For example, in Sligo/Leitrim, which lost 11 stations, robbery has decreased by 50pc in the past year and burglary is down 45.6pc. These crimes are also well below 2013 levels.
In Kerry, which also lost 11 stations, robbery is down 66.7pc in the past year, burglary by 49.5pc and theft by 26.5pc. Burglary and theft are well below 2013 levels.
But as always with crime statistics, there are variations and exceptions. One notable exception is Dublin East, where Stepaside was among three garda stations to close.
In DMR East, robbery is up 26.9pc in the past year and burglary is down 18pc year on year - but up a huge 71.3pc on 2013 levels.
In Cork West, robbery is up 20pc year on year and Cavan-Monaghan has seen a 29.3pc increase in burglaries year on year. It is clear that there are parts of the country where the job is only half done.
Irish Rural Link, an umbrella body for community groups around the country, also points out that while the CSO figures for the first quarter of the year are encouraging, there is a disparity between the reduction in Dublin and the reduction in other parts of the country.
The groups it represents believe the retention of Operation Thor is essential not just for the tackling of burglary gangs but also for the rebuilding of confidence in the gardaí.