Most Garda stations record one crime or less per day
Detailed figures from the Central Statistics Office show recorded crime is very low in most parts of the Republic, with 80 per cent of Garda stations recording one crime or less per day last year and 41 per cent recording one crime or less per week. The figures do not include murders and sex offences because of data protection and identification concerns.
The CSO has provided crime trends for each of the 704 Garda stations in conjunction with the All-Island Research Observatory, a research unit in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. The news that so few crimes are recorded in so many stations follows the closure of 39 stations so far this year. Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has decided to extend that closure programme.
The publication of the crime trends for each station will fuel the debate about the need for so many stations. There are only 1,300 police stations across England and Wales for a population of 55 million.
The crime data for the Republic reveals what is effectively a two-speed network of Garda stations, with a relatively small number handling a very significant proportion workload. However, many smaller stations are open for restricted hours and the workload is directed towards bigger stations in the areas.
Store Street station in Dublin’s north inner city is the busiest in the Republic, with 8,510 crimes recorded there last year. Pearse Street in the south inner city was the next busiest, with 7,674 crimes. Blanchardstown in west Dublin completed the top three, with 5,767 crimes last year.
Mr Shatter has said he believes having 700-plus stations in Ireland is unsustainable. He has asked Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to identify what stations might be closed in 2013. The closure plan is being pursued as crime is falling across the Republic, with headline or serious offences down 13 per cent since 2008 when crime rates peaked.
However, high-profile and violent crime has continued to attract significant media attention. Many Garda and criminology sources believe recorded crime is falling partly because there are fewer gardaí. Numbers have fallen from a peak of 14,600 in late 2010 to 13,567 on June 30th. They will fall by the end of 2014 to 13,000, under the EU-International Monetary Fund bailout terms.
The Garda overtime budget has fallen from €155.4 million in 2007 to €54 million in the current year.
The Garda Representative Association, which represents 11,300 rank- and-file gardaí, has said most small stations cost €3,000 or less to run per year and they deter crime. They say further closures would compromise policing.
The new figures for recorded crime in each station do not include murders and sex offences, which have been excluded over data protection issues and for fear of identifying victims in stations where only one such crime was recorded.
Offences committed in prison have also been excluded because they would skew the figures for stations that have a prison, and in some cases two or three jails, within their catchment areas. The small number of excluded crime categories represents 5 per cent of recorded crime and their absence does not materially affect the crime trends.
The new data represents a more detailed breakdown of quarterly and annual crime rates published by the CSO, which are usually broken down by Garda divisions rather than stations.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins TD urged Mr Shatter not to use the latest figures as “a stick to beat the gardaí with”.
“Gardaí as a security presence in the community do a lot more than simply record crime,” he said. “These statistics take no account of crime prevention associated with having a Garda presence.”
Mr Collins said Mr Shatter should be “looking to protect our elderly and vulnerable in rural Ireland instead of hiding behind statistics to abandon them”.