CSO data show drug offences more likely to be detected by gardaí

Dublin has twice as many burglaries per capita compared to the rest of the country

There were 560.5 burglaries per 100,000 people in Dublin last year, more than twice the rate for the rest of the Republic.

A greater number of drug-related crimes are being detected by the Garda than any other crime type while sexual crimes have the lowest detection rates.

More crime generally is also committed in Dublin per capita than in any other part of the Republic, though detection rates for crimes committed in this county are the lowest in the country, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

There were more than twice as many burglaries in Dublin last year per capita than in the rest of the Republic, debunking a widely held belief that rural Ireland sees a higher incidence of this type of crime.

Furthermore, more than one in 10 sexual crimes recorded last year resulted in a juvenile being cautioned by gardaí; a formal sanction that stops short of criminal charges.


A review of crimes recorded by the Garda in 2019 has shown that 88 per cent of drug-related crimes have been “detected”, which means a suspected offender has been identified and sanctioned for the offence.

Sanctions can include summonses, convictions in the courts, juvenile cautions or fixed charge notices, depending on the crime type involved.

Sexual offences recorded in 2019 show a much lower detection rate, of 12 per cent, when compared to homicides.

Detection rates for drug crime tend to be very high because in many cases the drug crime comes to light as gardaí seize drugs from a suspect, against whom a prosecution is then commenced.

However, sexual crimes almost always require a longer and more complex investigation, meaning detection rates are low in the short term but tend to climb higher over the following 12 to 24 months.

As well as drug crimes, detection rates for homicides – which include murders, manslaughters and other unlawful killings such as dangerous driving causing death – are also very high.

Almost two thirds, 65.5 per cent, of homicides recorded in 2019 have now been detected. The rates of detection for other crimes recorded in 2019 and which had been detected by September of this year include:

Public order and social code offences, 84 per cent

Theft and related offences, 32.8 per cent

Damage to property or the environment, 20.4 per cent

Burglary and related offences, 14.6 per cent

Robbery, extortion and hijacking, 26.3 per cent

Attempts or threats to murder, assaults and related crimes 33 per cent

Juvenile cautions were used frequently as a form of sanction, with 11 per cent of the 2019 sexual crimes being detected by way of juvenile caution.

Some 10 per cent of detected burglaries were dealt with via juvenile caution, with the same mechanism was used in 7 per cent of drug crime cases and 9 per cent of public order crimes.

In Dublin, where crime rates were higher per capita and detection rates were lower, there were 1.6 homicides per 100,000 compared to 0.9 homicides per 100,000 outside Dublin.

The rate of homicides being detected in Dublin was marginally higher; some 63.6 per in Dublin and 66.7 per cent through the rest of the Republic. In 2019 there were 76.3 sexual offences per 100,000 in Dublin and 64.1 sexual crimes per 100,000 outside Dublin.

Detection rates for sex crimes were 10.7 per cent for Dublin and 12.7 per cent for other parts of the country.

There were 560.5 burglaries per 100,000 people in Dublin last year, more than twice the 255.1 per 100,000 burglaries in the rest of the Republic. Burglaries were also much less likely to be detected in Dublin, where 12 per cent were detected compared to 16.8 per cent in the rest of the country.

Drug crime was also much higher in Dublin; some 608.3 drug crimes per 100,000 population in the capital compared to 367.5 drugs offences in the rest of the Republic. Some 86.1 per cent of drug crimes in Dublin were detected compared to 89.1 per cent elsewhere.

The biggest difference in crime rates between Dublin and the rest of the country was in trends for thefts and related offences, with 2,685.8 per 100,000 in the capital and 881.6 in the rest of the country.

The detection rates were also significantly different; some 28.6 per cent for Dublin and 37.9 per cent for the rest of the country.

Garda Headquarters said while more work was required in the area of detecting sexual crimes, the force’s detection rates were “broadly in line with international norms”.

“As part of our work to further improve the detection rate, the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) is currently carrying out a review of detection rates for specific sexual offences,” it said.

The statement added the GNPSB had just completed the process of establishing its teams of specialist sex crime investigators in every Garda division in the country.

The Garda “absolutely recognises the importance of an outcome to a [sex crime] victim”. Furthermore, in cases were “no proceedings commence, this does not mean that the crime did not occur or that the victim was not believed”. On the contrary, in many such cases the offender was identified, though a criminal charge was not possible. It encouraged all victims of crime, especially those who fell victim to domestic or sexual violence, to come forward.

The CSO has said while some crime types showed very low detection rates at present for crimes recorded in 2019, these would increase over time as more crimes were detected. It singled out sexual crimes for special mention in that regard.

It said 12 months ago when it issued its first report on the Garda’s record on detecting crime, that report related to how many crimes recorded in 2018 had been detected by September, 2019.

At that point, September 2019, some 11 per cent of sex crimes recorded in 2018 had been detected. However, by September of this year, some 19 per cent of the sex crimes record in 2018 had been detected because investigations had continued and had reached a positive outcome.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the report by the CSO showed many crimes had very high detection rates, which was a reflection of the work being done by the Garda. However, even in those areas where detection rates were lower, including sexual crimes, the CSO report showed Garda investigations continued for a prolonged period and detections were achieved long after many crimes were first recorded.

“For many victims, it is important to know that those who have committed crimes against them have been identified and sanctioned where appropriate,” she said.

“This series of reports arms us with a robust and reliable assessment of detections which establishes a reliable baseline against which operational decisions can be considered and further progress can be measured and ensured.”

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times