GARDA Commissioner Martin Callinan last night ordered a nationwide crackdown on robberies as new figures showed a surge in the number of raids on banks, building societies and homes.
The figures, released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), show an increase in robberies of 28pc between 2009 and last year -- up from 2,491 to 3,193.
And statistics for the final quarter of 2010 indicate a jump of 36pc from 649 to 884, when compared with the corresponding period in 2009.
Measures have already been drawn up on a national level to focus on the main gangs responsible for the extra robberies from banks, building societies and post offices.
The new directive is aimed at individual robberies from the person, which are creating big problems at local level and are up on the year by 48pc -- from 1,310 to 1,942.
Chief superintendents are being asked in the new directive to take a personal interest in the tactics being deployed in their divisions to tackle the upsurge.
Justice Minister Brendan Smith said he had been assured gardai would continue to target gangs, particularly through intelligence-led policing.
But Fine Gael justice spokesman Alan Shatter said there was a direct link between the increase in robberies and the economic crisis. He claimed the increase, while disturbing, should come as no surprise.
"Robbery from the person is a violent act and results in grave trauma for the innocent victim involved," Mr Shatter added.
Overall, crimes against property decreased in burglary and related offences, down 6pc, and theft and related offences, down 0.4pc. Those categories combined accounted for 97pc of property offences.
The minister welcomed the decrease in crime in nine of the 14 categories, compared with the final quarter in 2009, and a drop in 10 of the categories over the year.
These included a fall in the murder toll from 56 to 54 over the year, although there were two more in the final quarter; while murder attempts were down from 7 to 6, but murder threats were up by 60pc from 225 to 353.
Mr Smith also highlighted the 17pc drop in the number of cases of drink driving and a fall of 40pc in incidents of driving under the influence of drugs.
However, gun offences were up in the final quarter, with offences involving the discharge of a firearm on the rise by 42pc from 31 to 44 and possession of firearms increasing by 21pc from 106 to 128.
Public order crimes were down by 5pc from 57,351 to 54,687, with prostitution offences falling by 14pc from 3,285 to 2,813. Crimes of conspiracy increased from five to 17. Fraud and deception were also up, while arson, criminal damage and littering were all down.
The CSO points out that a rise of 60pc in sexual offences, from 1,482 to 2,376, is mainly due to an ongoing review of all cases involving alleged sexual offences reported to gardai.
The classification of reported sexual offences changed last year. This resulted in a spike in numbers around the middle of 2010.