Corridors of crime: burglars' escape network exposed
Isolated communities experience less crime
Criminal gangs are using the country's high-speed motorway network to commit burglaries in homes within easy reach of the capital.
Official data reveals startling 'corridors of crime' that match the main motorways and artery roads around the country.
Burglary rates per head of population are highest in commuter counties and in those connected to Dublin with a high-quality road network, and lowest in the more inaccessible parts.
Statistics provided by An Garda Síochána to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that burglary and related offences are highest in Wexford, with 256 incidents per 100,000 population.
This is more than eight times the rate in the lowest-ranked county, Monaghan.
The next highest burglary blackspots all show how the expensive motorway network built during the Celtic Tiger era is allowing gangs to roam unhindered.
Dublin ranks second highest, at 249 incidents per 100,000. This is largely expected. It is followed by Kildare (241), Louth (234), Wicklow (222), Laois (210), Waterford (194), Carlow (192), Offaly (150) and Kilkenny (146).
The lowest rates are in Monaghan (31), Leitrim (43), Donegal (49) and Mayo (51) - all counties largely served by single-carriageway roads and some distance from the capital. The figures are based on recorded crime for the first six months of this year, and show the uphill struggle gardaí face on a daily basis to crack down on mobile burglary gangs.
In the first half of 2015, some 7,876 burglaries were recorded by gardaí - almost 330 per week.
The Irish Independent analysis comes as Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan yesterday announced that 600 gardaí will be recruited in 2016, and just weeks after the Government approved funding for 200 new garda cars to combat crime.
The new 'motorway patrol unit' will use high-powered vehicles to target criminal gangs suspected of targeting small communities.
That initiative follows a decision to fund rural CCTV schemes on a trial basis, with cameras to be installed at strategic positions on motorway entry and exit ramps. The scheme is aimed at urban gangs targeting rural communities, and using the motorway to escape.
Rural crime has become a major issue in the run-up to the General Election and following the closure of 139 garda stations, a move which saved the State less than €560,000 a year.
There have been reports of homeowners sleeping with firearms besides their beds amid concerns about a rural crime epidemic, with communities being urged to become more vigilant.
The figures show that, of the 563 Garda sub-districts analysed, the highest burglary rate overall is in the area covered by Pearse Street in Dublin, with 730 per 100,000 population.
The next ranked crime spots in the capital are Clondalkin (519), followed by Cabinteely (400) and Donnybrook (390).
The data shows that, in general terms, there are between 235 and 400 burglaries per 100,000 population across Dublin - except in the Pearse Street and Clondalkin areas. It also shows a clear north/south divide - the burglary rate is lower in the Cabra, Blanchardstown, Finglas, Swords, Coolock, Raheny and Howth sub-districts than on all parts of the southside.
But at county level outside of Dublin, Wexford has the highest rate. Within the county, the highest rate is in Courtown Harbour - with 477 burglaries per 100,000. It is followed by Enniscorthy (399) and Duncannon (388).
The visual analysis, including maps setting out the crime rates in each county, has been compiled by Ordnance Survey Ireland on its GeoHive web portal, and is available through independent.ie.
The data is based on crime figures recorded by An Garda Síochána and provided to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) for the first six months of 2015.
It is made available by the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) on Ireland's Open Data Portal. The country is divided into 563 garda sub-districts, and small area population statistics from the 2011 Census were used to calculate the population per sub-district.
This allows the crime rate for offences to be calculated. For example, Carlow town has a population of 28,105 and 48 burglaries were recorded in the first six months - a rate of 171 per 100,000 population.
By comparison, the population of Tullow is 6,304 and 33 burglaries were recorded - a rate of 523 per 100,000 population.
A relatively high number of offences can skew the figures in areas of small populations. For example, Dublin Airport has a population of just 407, but 23 public order offences were recorded - a rate of 5,651 per 100,000 population. For this reason, it is excluded.
It is also important to note that the population figures, although the most recent, date from 2011. Growth in population expected since then would revise the crime rate in some areas.
Interactive maps created in the GeoHive application from Ordnance Survey Ireland are available at geohive.ie.