New rules to put spotlight on crime-solving ‘performance’ of gardaí

‘Data architect’ will record which Garda stations rank best for solving crimes

Gardaí will be required to account for why crimes they investigated did not result in any conclusion, such as criminal charges being pursued. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

Gardaí will be required to account for why crimes they investigated did not result in any conclusion, such as criminal charges being pursued. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

 

The “performance” of gardaí when investigating crimes is set to be recorded for the first time, and members of the force will be obliged to explain why a crime they were investigating was not solved.

The Irish Times understands that, in time, the Garda would begin to publish information on the main reasons why unsolved crimes did not result in criminal charges or other actions. The data will also highlight whether a lack of resources plays a part in some crimes going unsolved, and will also reveal which Garda stations and divisions have the best record for solving crimes.

Garda Headquarters has recruited a “data architect” to make a series of key changes, including recording the relationship between the perpetrators and victims of crime when those offences come to light.

It means the extent of domestic violence will begin to emerge across the Republic’s crime figures. The relationship information should also reveal trends about the nature of sexual crimes, including child abuse, and how many victims are sexually attacked by strangers or people known to them.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said, in a report in the Policing Authority, that recording victim-offender relationships would “further enhance the early identification of domestic abuse cases”.

Pilot project

He added a pilot project was already under way to begin recording the “investigation performance” of Garda members. Gardaí would no longer only record if a crime was detected. Instead, they would also be required to complete a “reason not detected” section in the official records.

“This will provide more insight into the reasons that investigations do not, or cannot, lead to a sanction outcome,” Mr Harris said.

It means gardaí will be required to account for why crimes they investigated did not result in any conclusion, such as criminal charges being pursued.

The Garda has in the past recorded and published data showing its record in detecting, or solving, a wide variety of crimes. But it has not formally recorded the reasons why crimes remain unsolved and the DPP also does not explain why it declines to pursue suspects for crimes.

Mr Harris has told the authority the new system of recording why crimes were not solved was “planned to be in place” by the end of June.

The “data architect” already hired by the Garda was set to lead a “data engineering function” to improve data management and decide on the suitability of information for the force to analyse. The Garda is also in the process of recruiting data experts to fill more than 30 new posts created within the Garda Síochána Analysis Service as part of a new a drive for better-quality data to inform policing operations.

Plummeted

Meanwhile, most crime types plummeted last year, largely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Residential burglaries were down by 41 per cent in the 12 months to January, and commercial burglaries were down by 39 per cent – very significant decreases considering burglary rates pre-pandemic were already at or close to record lows.

Aggravated burglaries, which involve a weapon or the threat of a weapon, increased by about 16 per cent in the first nine months of last year compared to the first nine months of 2019. However, numbers were modest – 195 crimes in 2019 compared to 228 crimes in 2020. Some of those crimes were linked to drug intimidation while others resulted from householders coming to face to face with burglars because they were working from home.

Property crime fell by 30 per cent in the 12 months to January, mainly due to many businesses being closed and far fewer people gathering in public places where they could be targeted for thefts.

Crimes against the person, including assaults, were down by 15 per cent in the 12 months to January while criminal damage was down by 12.5 per cent and public order offences were down by 14.5 per cent. In the 12 months to last December, the number of sexual crimes reported to the Garda fell by 10 per cent.