Covid-19: Lockdown sees burglaries drop by 30% in March

Sex crimes recorded also down last month as Garda announce €8.1m surplus for 2020

The number of burglaries reported to the Garda in March plummeted by 30 per cent due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

The number of burglaries reported to the Garda in March plummeted by 30 per cent due to the Covid-19 restrictions put in place, even though the first lockdown measures were only introduced halfway through the month.

While gardaí are still receiving regular reports of sexual offences, the level of sex crimes recorded by the Garda in March also significantly declined.

It has also emerged that despite the significant demands placed on policing from mid-March, the Garda had surplus funds at the end of the month as it had spent €8.1 million less than its full allocation for the first three months of the year.

In his monthly report submitted to the Policing Authority, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said sexual crimes were down by seven per cent in the 12-month period to March. The number of crimes report in March fell back to levels not seen since 2015, from which point the rate of sexual crimes reported to the Garda began to rise and has continued to exceed new record levels each year since.


That long-term increase had begun to stabilise, though not declined, in the last months of 2019. And now the Covid-19 crisis period has witnessed a sudden fall in reports of sex crimes - to about 170 crimes reported in March from about 270 per month in previous months.

However, Garda sources said when crime figures for April, all of which involved a Covid-19 lockdown in the Republic, become available they will show reported crime trends “collapsing”, including burglary and sex offences.

Gardaí said because people were mostly confined to their homes and it was also harder for criminals to move around the drop in the burglary rate would likely be most pronounced. They added while sexual offending would also show unprecedented decreases, because social interaction had been reduced, many victims, mostly women, were still being sexually attacked by people they knew, including their partners.

The Government and Garda have already said reports of domestic violence were up by more than 20 per cent, with Garda sources telling The Irish Times there were significantly higher spikes in some areas.

Mr Harris has told the Policing Authority that this was being dealt with by Operation Faoiseamh; a dedicated operation to respond urgently to alerts about domestic violence, to keep in touch with known victims and to monitor known offenders. Garda National Protective Services Bureau was leading Operation Faoiseamh, which means ‘relief, and was being supported by the Garda National Protective Services Bureau in all Garda divisions nationwide. Garda inspectors all over the country had taken responsibility for Operation Faoiseamh in each area, with a focus on ensuring court orders – including barring, safety and protection orders — were enforced immediately.

Mr Harris has told the Policing Authority that net Garda expenditure of €421.4 million to the end of March was €8.1 million less than the spend planned for. However, he said budgets were fully committed and the full cost of the Covid-19 policing operation would take time to emerge.

Spending on Garda overtime to the end of March was €1.8 million, or 8 per cent, higher than the budget for that period. However, spending on salaries for the first three months of the year was €262.6 million, representing an under spend of €2.5 million. Mr Harris said the new 12-hour roster put in place for the Covid-19 policing operation would put pressure on the salary budget for the year.

Furthermore, the Garda had had to invest in PPE equipment, new vehicles, new IT resources and other assets as part of its policing operation related to Covid-19 as well as put in place new cleaning services to help keep Garda members safe.

“It is currently difficult to quantify the full potential financial impact, however preliminary calculations are being undertaken,” he said. “It must also be noted that the total costs of the new roster arrangements and the non-pay element will be dependent on the duration of Covid-19.”

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times