Organised crime rates slump with recession

Crime down overall but sexual offences rise by 51 per cent

Organised crime rates have fallen significantly since the onset of recession, with declines in drug and gun offences among the most significant of any crime category during a five-year period studied in new research.

Overall crime has decreased, in some categories by more than 40 per cent. However, the number of burglaries being recorded across the Republic increased in the period when the economy went from boom to bust, and sexual offences increased by a very considerable 51 per cent.

The increase in sexual offences was the largest percentage change of any of the 16 main crime categories analysed in the new Central Statistics Office report. It studies the rates of crime recorded by the Garda between 2008 and 2012.

Victims of sex crimes have been more willing to come forward in recent years and the way the offences are recorded has improved, with the threshold of what constitutes a sexual offence having been lowered.


Reported crime
The figures only deal with crimes reported to the Garda. Crimes that are not reported are not captured in the statistics.

The falling trends appear to debunk the widely held view that crime rises in times of recession.

Drug crime has dropped by 30 per cent, while the number of cases of illegal possession of a firearm or illegal discharging of a weapon dropped by 42 per cent.

Gardaí believe drug crime has collapsed in line with levels of disposable incomes. Such incomes drive recreational drug use, which accounts for the great majority of the overall drug trade.

And with the drugs trade having contracted, Garda sources said they were not surprised that the gun crime that accompanies it had also reduced.

"You also have a lot of gang members and gang leaders who were active in the past few years in places like Dublin and Limerick either in prison now or shot dead," said one Garda officer.

Homicide offences declined by 11 per cent in the five-year period to 2012 under review, murder attempts and threats were down by 18 per cent, while kidnapping and related offences increased by 32 per cent, though off a low base, with just 101 such crimes in 2012.

In comparison, the categories of drug crime and public order crime involved 16,000 and 41,000 recorded offences respectively in 2012.

Robbery and related offences were up 23 per cent between 2008 and 2012, burglaries increased by 14 per cent, thefts were down 1 per cent, fraud offences decreased by 7 per cent, public order offences fell by 29 per cent, while road traffic offences declined by 43 per cent.

The newly published research also shows the rate of solving crime has fallen in some areas.

For example, in 2008 some 85 per cent of all homicides were detected, meaning gardaí knew who had committed the offences. That figure had fallen to 77 per cent in 2012.

The increases or decreases in detection rates were marginal, no more than 1 or 2 per cent, in most crime categories.

Detection rates also tend to rise in time. Many crimes committed in 2012, for example, are still under investigation and at least some will be solved, revising higher the detection rate for that offence type in that year.

In 2012, the detection rate for the offence type of “dangerous and negligent acts” was 100 per cent and it was 99 per cent in that year for road traffic offences and drugs offences.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times