Garda strategy in spotlight as robbery, sex crimes rise
ROBBERIES, sex crimes, hijackings and kidnappings have all surged in recent months, prompting gardai to study some of their anti-crime strategies.
There was an alarming 52pc rise in recorded sex offences, including a 16pc rise in rapes which campaigners have described as an extremely worrying development.
The massive 61pc rise in robberies against the person, compared to the same period in 2009, indicates that Ireland has become a much more dangerous country, Fine Gael claimed.
Gardai will study a breakdown of the robberies -- where they are taking place and the persons or gangs suspected of being involved -- before drawing up plans to combat them.
New figures, released yesterday by the Central Statistics Office, showed that robbery, extortion and hijacking offences, recorded from April to June, were up from 575 to 770, when compared with the corresponding period last year.
The increase in robberies is in contrast to figures for burglary and theft, which both showed a fall in offences, possibly reflecting garda efforts to focus on crimes that were creating fear in local neighbourhoods.
Some 10 out of the 14 crime categories recorded decreases, compared with the same quarter in 2009.
There were 13 murder and manslaughter offences, down by three, while arson attacks fell by 10pc to 698 and controlled drug offences dropped by 6pc to 5,438.
Fraud and deception also dropped by almost 11pc, or 143 offences, while public order crimes fell by 5pc from 14,929 to 14,123. The biggest crime in this category generally is disorderly conduct which decreased from 12,900 to 12,064.
However, cultivation or manufacture of drugs almost doubled from 65 offences to 128, reflecting garda finds of cannabis factories in converted houses.
And crimes involving weapons and explosives were up by 7pc, from 932 to 997 -- mainly as a result of a 13pc rise in the possession or use of offensive weapons, such as knives.
Gangland-type crimes -- such as possession of a firearm or discharge of a firearm -- were all significantly down but offences involving explosives were up from 7 to 13.
Incidents of aggravated burglary, where violence is used, were down from 82 to 64, a fall of 22pc, while ordinary burglary offences fell by 13, from 6,030 to 6,017.
Robbery from a person increased from 303 incidents to 489 while cash-in-transit raids doubled from three to six but robberies from financial institutions or business premises fell from 240 to 237.
There was a 52pc increase in sex offences, however, this increase is largely due to changes in the way these statistics are recorded.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the overall figures showed the effects of the Government's initiatives for tackling crime and the resources made available to do so.
But he added that he and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy were concerned at the increase in robbery and related offences, which, while making up just 3pc of property offences, were extremely distressing for victims.
"One of the policing priorities, which I set for the garda force in 2010, is achieving maximum levels of safety for local communities," he said.
Mr Ahern welcomed the result of recent intelligence-led garda operations targeting organised crime and said the gardai would continue to develop and implement strategies to target those committing crimes against vulnerable members of the community.
But Labour justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said the overall crime rate remained unacceptably high in terms of organised crime and public order offences that blight many urban areas.
He added that the increase in robbery, hijacking and extortion offences was particularly worrying and he pointed out that the modest decrease in murders and manslaughters did not include the spate of shootings that took place this month.
Fine Gael frontbencher Charlie Flanagan said the shocking rise in robberies showed that Ireland had become a far more dangerous place after 13 years of Fianna Fail government.