The Irish Times view on Garda crime statistics: The numbers don’t add up
The CSO’s latest findings on the quality of crime data are of serious concern
The Garda Síochána is failing to even recognise the true nature of domestic violence offences and hate crimes when recording them in official records. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins
The Garda’s record on recording crime is in focus again, some four years after the Garda Inspectorate first exposed the underestimating of crime rates by the force.
Since the problem first emerged, further significant issues have been unearthed. The number of alcohol breath tests was being grossly overestimated by the Garda for years. More recently, civilian analysts within the force raised concerns about the way homicides – unlawful killings up to and including murder – were being classified and counted. Problems with the homicide figures first emerged during research to determine if some women who were killed in a domestic violence setting had been repeatedly victimised in the months and years before their killings.
The researchers were trying to determine if warning signs were missed by gardaí. Against that background, the CSO’s latest findings on the quality of crime data are of serious concern. Again, it is the force’s approach to domestic violence that is highlighted. When a sample of 100 sex crime cases were reviewed, the CSO found 19 should have been recorded as domestic violence but only one was.
In a sample of 100 assault cases studied, 41 should have been described as domestic violence but only 19 were. And hate crime was also being underestimated by the Garda, by at least 27 per cent and probably more. These findings were reached in a review that praised the Garda for its progress in recording crime generally. Yet the gravity of domestic violence and hate crimes continued to be overlooked by the Garda.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is still in his first months in the job. He has spoken repeatedly about his desire to help crime victims. Tackling the worrying shortcomings identified by the CSO this week requires his full and urgent attention.
The Garda is failing to even recognise the true nature of domestic violence offences and hate crimes when recording them in official records.
How then does it propose even to begin to devise a policing response to these crimes, and in some cases rescue the most at-risk victims?