Doubts cast on Garda’s ‘extremely high’ rural burglary arrest figures
Statistics suggest one arrest is made every three hours under Operation Thor
The Garda figures further state that there have been 200,939 checkpoints under the operation since it started – on average about 158 every day. Photograph: Alan Betson
New Garda figures under an operation targeting rural burglaries, which suggest a suspect is arrested every three hours, have been questioned as “extraordinarily high”.
Operation Thor was set up in late 2015 to target gangs after a number of violent burglaries on isolated homes and businesses in which high-powered vehicles were used to escape along the State’s motorways.
The latest official Garda figures, quoted by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan when questioned about the fight against rural crime, state that 10,024 arrests were made under the operation between November 2nd, 2015, and May 7th of this year. This represents an average of eight arrests every day over the past 3½ years – or one arrest every three hours.
There have also been 11,554 charges brought under the operation to date, for a range of offences including burglary, handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences, according to the Garda.
There have been 34,461 searches, 96,997 intelligence reports and 356,372 patrols over the same period.
The Garda figures further state that there have been 200,939 checkpoints under the operation since it started – on average about 158 every day.
Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, who obtained the figures, said Operation Thor was a valuable initiative that deserved support but the numbers “do seem extremely high”.
“The number of arrests reported seems to be extraordinarily high,” he said. “Obviously there have been significant issues with the Garda’s management of data and reporting of crime statistics – that is why the Central Statistics Office has been publishing them under reservation.
“I would hope that these statistics are accurate. If they are not, that would be of concern.”
Mr Ó Laoghaire said he would ask Mr Flanagan for a breakdown of the arrests by offence and seek further clarification on the figures.
“Given the pressure that Garda resources have been under ... it seems that the gardaí would have to be operating at the very edge of their capacity to undertake anything like the number of arrests being reported,” he added.
“The public needs to have confidence in crime figures. I would need further detail and confirmation to be confident that they are entirely accurate.”
A Garda spokeswoman said the statistics were “Garda internal figures, and official crime statistics are produced by the Central Statistics Office under reservation”.
Asked for further clarification, she said: “This is all the details of figures we can supply”, adding that “the answers have been provided and can’t be looked into further”.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said: “We will stand by the figures given to us by the gardaí. We can’t say any more.”
The Garda recently said Operation Thor has resulted in home burglaries being halved countrywide over the past four years.
Its figures state that residential burglaries fell from 12,057, during the winter of 2014-2015 to 5,997 last winter. That also represented an almost 10 per cent reduction on the previous winter, when there were 6,613 residential burglaries.
The CSO suspended publication of crime statistics in 2017 over concerns about the accuracy of data from the Garda. It has since resumed publishing figures “under reservation”, a de-facto health warning over their reliability.
Pádraig Dalton, CSO director general, in April signalled the health warning would continue until at least 2022. Mr Dalton said the problem was not with the force’s Pulse computer system, but rather how data was inputted into it.