Garda Commissioner rejects GRA claim over crime rates

Garda body says statistics being compiled in a manner that conceals offences such as burglaries

At the press conference to launch the GRA’s annual conference were (from left) the association’s vice-president Dermot O’Brien, president John Parker and deputy general secretary John Healy. Photograph: Conor O’Meara

At the press conference to launch the GRA’s annual conference were (from left) the association’s vice-president Dermot O’Brien, president John Parker and deputy general secretary John Healy. Photograph: Conor O’Meara

 

The Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has strongly rejected claims from the largest Garda body in the State that crime rates are being compiled in a manner that conceals many offences.

In a statement this morning Mr Callinan said he had no information or evidence of the allegations being spoken about and called on the president of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) John Parker to clarify his position and provide any evidence he has concerning this matter. Mr Callinan is due to address delegates in Westport, Co Mayo, this afternoon.

Last night Parker said a new system of categorising crime introduced about two years ago has seen some offences slip out of the official crime figures.

He had anecdotal evidence from rank-and-file gardaí of burglaries being recorded as criminal damage if, for example, nothing had been stolen but a window had been broken at a property.

“Categorisation is a skill and it’s easy to massage statistics, from one classification to another if all the boxes aren’t ticked. Similarly, you could have a person who genuinely [has been the victim of] a crime and they go so far as reporting it, the guard comes out, but the person doesn’t want to follow up and make a statement. So management have stated that without a statement of complaint signed; that is not a crime.”

He said such guidelines had been in operation for about two years. “In individual districts it became a practice and then it seemed to be widespread as regards to what is a crime, what is a complaint if all the boxes aren’t ticked, if a person doesn’t follow through . . . and formally made it into a complaint then it doesn’t exist as a crime.”

He said such a person was still the victim of a crime and that such incidents “shouldn’t be written off the books”.

The GRA represents about 11,200 rank-and-file gardaí in a force of 13,400 members.

Mr Parker made his comments at the opening session of the association’s annual conference in Westport last night.

Mr Parker said gardaí were very demoralised because manpower and other resources are so depleted, the investigation of crime is affected. “It’s a PR exercise often where you go out and you record [the crime] as much as you can and you try to allocate as much time as you can to the investigation of that crime.

“The manpower is not there for a serious follow-up to crime. On previous occasions what you would do is door-to-door [inquiries], you would saturate the area. These facilities are not there now.”

He said in relation to the murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe in Co Louth last January, teams from some specialist units in Dublin had been withdrawn because they were needed elsewhere.

And the lack of Garda vehicles meant some cars had to be hired to aid the probe. Others had been brought in from surrounding areas, where policing was depleted as a result.

The GRA has voted no confidence in Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and has not invited him to the conference. That move is unprecedented.

Mr Parker believed the number of District Court summonses had fallen by 22 per cent in the first quarter of the year for a variety of reasons, including fewer Garda man hours being worked and therefore less crime being detected.

The number of Garda vehicles was down 370 on 2009 numbers, a fall of about 30 per cent. Some new vehicles are so small they were like “lawnmowers” trying to keep up with high-powered vehicles driven by some gangs that not even the Garda helicopter could track.