Tourists who fall victim to crime in Ireland would still recommend it for a holiday

Irish Tourist Assistant Service has helped over 17,000 people since setting up

Guido Nasi, the 18 year old Italian student who was assaulted in August 1999, with Bernadette Kelly, volunteer with Victim Support. File photograph: Alan Betson

Guido Nasi, the 18 year old Italian student who was assaulted in August 1999, with Bernadette Kelly, volunteer with Victim Support. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

The vast majority of tourists who fall victim to crime while visiting Ireland say they would still recommend it as a holiday destination, according to the Irish Tourist Assistant Service (ITAS).

Since ITAS began 25 years ago it has helped over 17,000 people from 110 countries. About 90 per cent of those have continued with their holidays afterwards.

ITAS staff have seen it all. They helped Guido Nasi, the Italian who was violently attacked in Dublin’s Fairview Park in 1999 and left in need of constant care. They also helped the family of German tourist Bettina Poeschel who was found dead after disappearing in Co Meath during a short visit in 2001.

But then there are hundreds of less serious cases every year ranging from assaults to property being stolen from hire cars.

Between 2010 and 2017, the number of cases handled by the ITAS has risen from 361 to 529 annually.

Theft is the most common occurrence and the vast majority of crime is reported in Dublin city. Personal theft has remained relatively constant over the eight year period at an average of 193 cases per year. The most common items stolen are money, passports and credit or bank cards.

More serious crime is far less likely to happen but nevertheless the ITAS deals with several reports every year.

Between 2010 and 2012, when the statistics were more detailed, there were eight aggravated assaults, seven violent robberies, 16 assaults and one case each of sexual crime and robbery by gun, knife and syringe. In the years since, a broader category of “violent crime” was at a low of six incidents in 2013 and a high of 17 in 2015, with an annual average of 12.

Victim profiles

The most common victim profiles are women between the age of 17 and 25, targeted in Dublin between 2pm and 6pm.

“The number of crimes against tourists remains pretty low but I suppose we weren’t set up because Ireland has a huge tourist crime problem; it was because of the specific needs and problems [victims encounter],” explained ITAS chief executive Lisa Kennedy.

“A lot of the time they are just left stranded and they are looking for support and that is where we come in.”

The ITAS offers knowhow and support, but can also provide accommodation, food and help reschedule travel arrangements. Those targeted outside the capital can be transported to their embassies.

The organisation was set up in 1994 by Ann Meade and Derek Nally and is Europe’s only dedicated service for assisting tourists who find themselves in difficulty.

Ms Kennedy, who joined the service 19 years ago, clearly recalls one of her first cases - a Columbian teenager robbed of his possessions at knife point.

Although physically unharmed, he was very nervous about calling home. The thief had taken his grandfather’s watch, an invaluable possession his mother had asked him not to travel with.

“I told him your mother will just be delighted you are safe and I said give her a call. And of course she was,” Ms Kennedy recalled. It is an example of the value of human support in stressful circumstances.

“I think [PEOPLE]appreciate that crime can happen anywhere in the world. But it’s the response they receive when the crime occurs that turns a negative into a positive.”