The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Michael McDowell, TD, today published the provisional headline crime statistics for 2005 furnished by the Garda Commissioner. The statistics show an increase of 2.7% for the year compared with 2004.
Commenting at a Garda Graduation ceremony in Templemore today, the Minister said "While it is the case that a number of the increases reflect increased enforcement activity on the part of An Garda Síochána, the overall picture indicates that there is no room for complacency and validates the Government's decision to continue to devote unprecedented resources to the fight against crime."
Over the past three years since I initiated the publication of crime statistics on a quarterly basis, I have consistently emphasised that care must be taken in interpreting the statistics, especially when considering short term fluctuations and extrapolating trends over short periods. Nevertheless, while there have been significant reductions in 2005 in the incidence of manslaughter (down 50%), aggravated sexual assault (down 43%), robbery of cash/goods in transit (down 27%), robbery from the person (down 23%) and theft from the person (down 18%), I am very disappointed with the overall increase and the increases in individual categories, and in particular with the increase of 10% in the fourth quarter of 2005.
It is important that the reasons for the increases are assessed and any additional necessary action taken and the Commissioner has undertaken to assess the causes of the rise in 2005 in burglaries which represents the highest volume crime."
Divisional Quarterly Statistics
There will be significant changes in the publication of the crime statistics in 2006 as the Minister has, in the Government's policing priorities for 2006, requested that the quarterly figures be made available on a divisional basis. This move will facilitate a more detailed understanding of the statistics and will be an important contribution to public debate and policy formulation on crime.
The Minister welcomed the significant decrease of 27% in the number of incidents of robbery of cash/goods in transit (down from 62 in 2004 to 45 in 2005) and noted that this trend improved in the fourth quarter with a decrease of 47%. He said "Operation Delivery, an initiative undertaken by the Garda Síochána to counteract the increase in cash in transit robberies which emerged in 2004, has contributed significantly to this welcome decrease. Furthermore, the new code of practice now being operated by the major institutions and companies involved in the cash in transit industry, which has raised the standards in operation and which I pushed for, has made a significant contribution to this decrease. These developments have been underpinned by the establishment of the Private Security Authority."
The Minister also welcomed the increase in the number of detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply (up 20%) and possession of firearms (up 16%), offences which come to notice as a result of police detection work. This trend continued in the fourth quarter and, in the case of possession of firearms, improved, with an increase of 24%.
Operation Anvil, which the Commissioner introduced last May and for which the Minister obtained additional resources also made a significant contribution to detections. The Minister said: "Operation Anvil will continue as long as it is deemed necessary in operational and policing terms. At my request and facilitated by the provision of additional funding, the Commissioner has extended Operation Anvil to Garda Divisions outside Dublin. Operation Anvil has contributed to encouraging outcomes, with a total number of arrests of 1,689 - which includes 581 arrests for burglary, 243 arrests for robbery offences, 16 arrests for murder and 277 arrests for serious assaults. Another key result in Operation Anvil is the large number of firearms - 293 to date."
Increase in Garda numbers and resources
2006 will see the strength of An Garda Siochana, including students, reach the level of 14,000 as indicated in the Programme for Government. The resources available to the Commissioner have also reached record levels. The Minister said "An Garda Síochána has this year the highest level of resources in its history - Euro 1.3 billion - an increase of Euro 146 million or 13% on 2005. The provision for Garda overtime in 2006 is Euro 83.5 million - an increase of Euro 23 million on the allocation for 2005. This increase will greatly assist the planned deployment of a visible policing service in a flexible, effective and targeted response to criminal activity and to crime prevention. The Euro 83.5 million in overtime will yield 2.725 million extra hours of policing by uniformed and by special units throughout the State."
The Minister noted that the level of headline crime in 2005 is 2% lower than that for 2003. "It should be borne in mind that any interpretation of the crime figures should factor in the increase in our population in the past 10 years. In 1995, with a population of almost 3.6 million people, there were 29 crimes per 1,000 of the population. In 2005, with a population of over 4.1 million, there was the equivalent of 24.6 crimes per 1,000 of the population."
The Minister welcomed the continuing early availability of the statistics and drew attention to the fact that the figures are provisional and thus subject to change. They are currently the subject of an ongoing validation process which has not yet been finalised. Once this process is completed, the Garda Commissioner's Annual Report for 2005 will be published.
26 January 2006.