Crime Nation: How safe is your area?

An exclusive investigation reveals how pockets of the country have become blackspots for certain serious crimes

19th January 2015

Several rural counties have seen abnormal and unexplained spikes for certain offences, an analysis of crime statistics for 2013 reveals. The figures show Co Kerry has a significant problem with drunk and disorderly behaviour, while Co Waterford has a much higher rate of rape and sexual offences than other counties.

They also show homeowners are more likely to be burgled in Co Louth, while you are more likely to be the victim of a violent assault in Co Donegal. Similarly, drink driving is a bigger problem in Co Monaghan than elsewhere.

A breakdown of more than a quarter a million criminal offences recorded in Ireland last year show that one person in every 20 was affected by a crime. However, despite the spikes for certain offences in parts of the country, the overall rate of crime fell by 7pc last year and is at its lowest level in a decade.

Even though many offences are up, there has been an overall drop in the crime rate, driven by sizeable reductions in criminal damage, drink-driving and public order offences. Of the offences that are up, many are associated with the economic downturn. The figures show robberies are up 22pc over the past five years and burglaries are up by 6pc.

The number of kidnapping offences has jumped by 56pc since 2008 following a spate of tiger kidnappings.

The most common offence, theft, which accounts for more than a third of all reported crime in Ireland, has risen by 2pc over the same period and reached its highest level in a decade in 2013 with almost 79,000 reports of stolen property.

However, there have also been positive trends with crimes involving damage to property, public order offences and drink-driving all recording their lowest annual figures in a decade last year.

The incidence of violent assaults, harassment and attempts or threats of murder has almost fallen back to 2003 levels with 25pc decrease in such crimes over the past five years. Levels of white collar crime involving cases of fraud and deception dropped by 17pc last year but the pattern has fluctuated considerably in the past decade.

There was a slight increase in the number of homicides in 2013, up four to 83, although the general trend for murders has been downward. There was a 5pc reduction in the number of reported sexual offences last year.

However, the number of rapes and other sexual assaults are still up by 44pc since 2008.

While overall crime levels across the State fell by 7pc last year, there were major differences in the rate of how fast crime rates are falling in individual counties.

In fact, two counties actually saw crime levels increase during 2013.

The number of recorded offences jumped by 11pc in Co Laois and a more modest 5pc in Co Longford with notable increases in drug and theft offences in both counties.

Crime levels also remained static in Co Sligo and Co Tipperary. In contrast, the crime rate in Co Cavan dropped by 20pc last year with sizeable reductions also recorded in crime levels in Co Mayo, Co Monaghan and Co Roscommon.

Although there was a 6pc reduction in drug offences and 15pc drop in the detection of drink-driving offences, such categories are often regarded as much a measurement of Garda enforcement levels as a reflection of changing social and lifestyle trends and criminal activity levels.

The survey highlights how Roscommon is the safest county in the country with crime rates 53pc below the national average. Other counties with significantly low crime rates include Leitrim, Mayo, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan. Meanwhile, the predominantly rural area of west Cork is the Garda division with the lowest crime rate in Ireland.

An analysis of official crime figures show the division, which is one of the largest geographically but least densely populated areas in the country, has crime rates more than 50pc below the national average. The Cork West Garda division, which includes the larger towns of Bandon, Macroom, Clonakilty and Kinsale, has a population of around 130,000.

It had an overall crime rate in 2013 of just 237 offences per 10,000 population. Another Garda division in the county, Cork North, covers all other parts of the county outside the city area, and has the third lowest overall crime rate in the country. The official crime figures also confirm Co Dublin as the country’s crime capital by some distance from other counties with above-average crime rates, including Co Limerick, Co Waterford and Co Louth.

With 743 offences per 10,000 population, Dublin has a crime rate 50pc above the national average.