The Irish Times view on crime trends: familiar challenges
With pubs and clubs closed due to Covid-19, drugs gangs have taken a significant blow of late – but that setback will be short-lived
Currently involved a major policing operation related to Covid-19, the Garda will in time return to more regular duties. And when it does, familiar challenges lay ahead. Photograph: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Currently involved in a major policing operation related to Covid-19, the Garda will in time return to more regular duties. And when it does, familiar challenges lie ahead. The publication of the Republic’s crime statistics for 2019 last week revealed big increases in drug crime, which is now back to the record levels witnessed during the last days of the Celtic Tiger era. As disposable incomes rise, the night time economy booms and the consumption of alcohol and so-called recreational drugs increase.
All of the crimes that flow from that dynamic – drug dealing and drug possession along with disorder and assaults – increase. The Central Statistics Office crime data for 2019 revealed drug crime up 17 per cent. Assaults were up by 8 per cent to a new record in the period since the CSO began compiling crime data in 2003. Public order offending was also up, by 1 per cent.
There was some good news for the Garda as burglaries continued to fall and last year reached a record low. The number of sexual offences increased again last year, setting a record for the sixth consecutive year.
The sustained increase in reported sex crimes may be evidence that victims now have more confidence in the Garda and so are coming forward. However, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said the real rate of sexual offending may also be increasing. The drugs trade poses a very different policing challenge; one that will inevitably manifest in gun feuding. The first two murderous feuds of the drug market’s post-recession recovery are already well established; in Coolock, north Dublin, and Drogheda, Co Louth.
With pubs and clubs closed due to Covid-19, drugs gangs have taken a significant blow of late. But that setback will be short-lived. Efforts by the Criminal Assets Bureau to target low-level and mid-tier drug dealers just as hard as the bigger figures must be replicated across all specialist Garda units. The experience of the last two decades shows that once gangs gain a foothold and grow stronger they pose a major security risk and their leaders are often impossible to bring to justice.