Knife-crime figures down despite recent spate of stabbings
THERE has been a dramatic fall in knife crime nationwide, the Irish Independent has learned.
The stabbing of nine people at a gig in Dublin's Phoenix Park two weeks ago had lead to widespread concern that knife crime was on the rise.
However, new figures show an 11pc fall in offences in which knives were used in the past year, with that trend continuing up to the end of June.
The increase in emigration and a shortage of money for young people to go out at night are understood to be the factors behind the fall.
The decrease has been evident across a range of categories from public order offences to robbery and theft from the person and from shops and banks, as well as violent burglaries.
The statistics dispel fears that knife crime was on the increase again after the outbreak of stabbings at the Swedish House Mafia event.
Knives were used in eight of the 29 murders recorded in the first six months, while a dozen were carried out with firearms -- five handguns, three shotguns, two rifles and two combinations of shotgun and handgun -- and the other nine were due to physical violence, using hammers, bricks or strangulation.
Charges have been brought or are pending in 20 of the 29 murders, or 69pc, and while seven of the murders have been attributed to crime gangs, none are related to dissident terrorism.
Explaining the fall in knife crime over the past 18 months, officers said the current economic woes, which left young people with a lot less money to spend at night, and the rise in emigration were influential factors.
But they said the introduction of legislation making knife offences an indictable crime and resulting in stiffer penalties on conviction had also played a part in bringing down the number.
Statistics show there were 3,838 recorded crimes in which knives were used in 2011, down by 11pc on the previous year's total of 4,313.
Gardai launched a nationwide campaign in 2009 to persuade young men not to carry knives. After a slow start, the figures now appear to be turning in their favour.
Officers said the campaign was never intended as a quick-fix solution.
"This was a slow-burner initiative with the aim of convincing our target group, ranging from 14- to 16-year-olds, particularly in communities where knives could be regarded as an everyday accessory," one officer said.
As a result of the changes in the law, brought in by former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, the maximum penalty for possessing a knife in a public place has increased from one to five years.
Gardai have also been given extended powers of search without warrant for knives and other offensive weapons.
Samurai swords have also been banned from importation and sale, with exemptions made for collectors and martial arts enthusiasts.
Unlike the UK, Ireland does not have a knife gang culture and most of the incidents involving stabbings have been relatively isolated in a handful of key pockets in areas such as west and north Dublin and Cork.
The last available findings of studies into knife crime showed that one-third of offenders were under the age of 20. Nine out of 10 offenders were male, as were seven out of 10 victims.
More than one-third of knife crimes were carried out in public areas.