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CSO figures reveal country in grip of 'robbery epidemic'

Ireland is in the grip of a robbery epidemic with an average of five people being held up every day, official figures revealed today.

A survey also found that four in ten citizens are living in fear of being targeted by criminals although there has been a drop in many serious crimes.

One of two reports released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows a startling 1,783 people were robbed in the 12 months up to September.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern admitted the massive surge - up 45pc on the same period the year before - was disturbing.

But he pointed out decreases in the number of killings, drugs, firearms and explosives offences reported.

"Offences in these categories cause particularly serious harm to society," he said.

"I commend the Garda Commissioner (Fachtna Murphy) and An Garda Siochana for the unremitting effort which they are putting into combating these types of crime."

The CSO's recorded crime report shows a 15pc hike in cash-in-transit or goods heists while reported blackmail and extortion cases were up 75pc.

There was a slight rise in the number of banks and other institutions held up during the year.

But murder and other killings were down by around a fifth, kidnapping was down 8pc, drugs offences were down 12pc while burglary, theft and related offences were also down slightly.

A drop of a quarter in so-called dangerous or negligent acts was mainly down to a big reduction in the number of people caught drink-driving.

A Garda review of all sex abuse cases was behind a huge rise in the number of reported sexual offences, according to Mr Ahern and the CSO.

Another report on crime and victimisation showed nearly one in ten households surveyed by the CSO had been targeted by criminals during this year, with Dublin slightly worse affected.

While 40pc of those polled said they feared being a victim of crime, more than eight in every ten described crime in Ireland as a serious or very serious problem.

Mr Ahern said although there was a "disturbing" increase in robbery, extortion and hijacking offences, a drop in burglary, theft and related offences made up the greatest proportion of property offences.

Fine Gael's justice spokesman Alan Shatter said the Garda review of sex offences revealed a disturbing trend in unreported crime that raised serious questions about the accuracy of crime statistics.

"People instinctively know the reality of the crime situation hence it is no surprise to hear that 83pc of the people surveyed believe crime is a serious problem," he said.

"Put simply, people are well aware that much crime goes unreported and that effectively they are being misled about the reality of Ireland's crime crisis."

PA Media