Drug crime back to Celtic Tiger record levels, CSO figures show

Number of sex crimes reported to the Garda reached a new record high last year

New data for 2019 released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Tuesday shows the number of recorded drug crimes last year increased by just over 17 per cent on the previous 12 months to 21,475 offences. Photograph: Garda Press Office

New data for 2019 released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Tuesday shows the number of recorded drug crimes last year increased by just over 17 per cent on the previous 12 months to 21,475 offences. Photograph: Garda Press Office

 

Drug crime in the Republic increased sharply last year and is now back to the record levels of the Celtic Tiger era, while the number of sex offences reported reached a new high.

There were significant increases in many crime types last year, with the notable exception homicide. It dropped by more than one third to 50 cases, the lowest level in the modern era.

Senior Garda officers believe growing prosperity last year, and an increase in the size of the Garda force, contributed to the significant increase in detection of drug crime.

New data for 2019 released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Tuesday shows the number of recorded drug crimes last year increased by just over 17 per cent on the previous 12 months to 21,475 offences.

This is higher than at any time in the history of the State apart from the peak of 2008 and 2009 when drug crime reached a record high of 23,354 and 21,865 recorded offences respectively.

Spending power

Gardaí said drug crime decreased during the economic crash because recreational users, who account for most of the illicit drugs market, saw their disposable incomes plummet. However, with the Irish economy recovering strongly last year spending power was up, resulting in a rebound in crime drug crime.

“There are also more (Garda) members now and when the size of the organisation increases you are going to discover more drugs offences,” said one source. “There has also been more money for overtime so you can run operations specifically targeting drugs.”

Last year, some 3,307 sex crimes were reported to the Garda, a record high. The number of sex crimes last year was slightly more than double the number reported in 2003 when the CSO began compiling crime data.

Of the sex crimes reported last year, some 807 were rapes of females or males, 173 were defilements of girls or boys under the age of 17 years and 31 were sexual crimes that victimised mentally impaired people. Eleven cases were aggravated sexual assaults, meaning a weapon on the threat of a weapon was used, and 1,779 were sexual assaults.

Garda sources said it was impossible to determine exactly why sexual crimes were increasing. They added while victims were now more likely than ever to come forward and make an official complaint, it was also likely the number of sexual crimes being committed was increasing.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said that some crime types were increasing because the economy was stronger and people had higher disposable incomes. He cited drug crime and crimes like disorder and assault, many of which are linked to excess alcohol consumption.

Mr Harris has pointed out in a period when crimes against the person, which include assaults, were increasing it was likely sexual offending was also increasing in real terms.

Murders

The 50 homicides recorded last year included 35 murders, four manslaughters and 11 cases of dangerous driving leading to death.

By comparison, there were 80 homicides in 2018, while in 2007, there were 152, the highest level in the period since the CSO has been compiling the crime statistics.

Attempts or threats to murder, assaults, harassments and related offences were up last year by eight per cent to 21,752 cases, with most of those assaults.

Assaults causing harm and less serious assaults were both up by eight per cent to 4,912 and 13,874 cases respectively.

Driving a vehicle while over the legal alcohol limit decreased by seven per cent to 6,628 cases. Kidnapping and human trafficking crimes were down by three per cent to 123 cases.

Theft and related offences were up by two per cent to 68,414 crimes.

Fraud and deception crimes were up by 26 per cent to 7,944, a new record high. Weapons offences, including gun crime, was up by 10 per cent to 2,686 crimes. Public order offending increased by just over one per cent to 32,408 offences recorded.

Burglary was sown by just over one per cent, at 16,772; a record low in the modern era. Robbery and extortion offences decreased by four per cent to 2,339.