By Seán McCárthaigh
Seven out of 10 of the most serious crimes against property are going unsolved with non-detection rates in some Garda districts in excess of 80%.
New figures show only four out of the country’s 96 Garda districts solved more than half of all robberies, burglaries and theft in their area during 2015.
They also reveal that offenders have little chance of being caught for the large majority of such crimes in most other parts of Ireland.
The Irish Examiner has obtained a breakdown of detection rates at Garda district level for the three main offences involving property – robbery, burglary and theft.
By their nature such offences have some of the lowest detection rates of all crimes.
Overall gardaí are only successful in solving approximately 30% of these cases on average based on official crime figures for 2013-2015 (The figures for last year related to crimes recorded up to the end of September 2015).
The main criteria for classifying an offence as “detected” is when criminal proceedings have been commenced against at least one suspected offender.
The figures reveal the performance of gardaí stationed in 96 districts across the Republic in catching offenders for such crimes.
In 2015, gardaí based at the five stations within the Leixlip district of Co Kildare had the worst detection rate for robbery, burglary and theft with less than 14% of all cases solved.
The district covers several large towns including Maynooth and Celbridge.
The two other districts in Co Kildare – Naas and Kildare Town – also have comparatively low detection rates with both at around 20%.
Independent TD for Kildare, Catherine Murphy, said the figures were a cause for concern as burglaries and theft were one of the few categories of crime which have been increasing in recent years.
Ms Murphy said she firmly believed there was a clear link between detection rates and Garda manpower levels as Kildare has the lowest number of gardaí of any county in Ireland on a per capita basis.
“The annual policing plan published by An Garda Síochána is a work of fiction as it does not take into account demographic changes by putting more gardaí into areas where there have been large increases in population like Kildare,” she observed.
Most of the districts with the lowest detection rates are located in Dublin and counties surrounding the capital.
They include Clondalkin, Balbriggan and Dun Laoghaire as well as Baltinglass, Co Wicklow and Ashbourne and Trim in Co Meath. Other areas with detection rates of 20% or less include the two Galway districts of Clifden and Salthill.
Two of the four districts where over 50% of crimes are solved are located in Kerry – Tralee and Listowel.
Gardaí based at the nine stations in the Tralee district, which includes the towns of Dingle and Castleisland, had the best detection rate in the country last year with offenders apprehended for 56% of all property-related crime.
Detection rates in urban areas are not universally lower than rural locations as gardaí based in two city centre locations in Dublin and Cork – Store Street and Anglesea Street respectively – both made arrests for more than half of all robberies, burglaries and theft within their districts in the first nine months of last year.
Other districts with above-average detection rates were predominantly based in Munster and included Clonmel, Dungarvan, Ennis, Bandon, Midleton and the Togher district of Cork city.
Over the past three years, gardaí based in the main district in Cork city – Anglesea Street – have the best record in Ireland, solving on average more the 56% of all robberies, burglaries and thefts in its area.
In contrast, the Garda district of Ashbourne, Co Meath has the highest rate of unsolved property crimes with an average of 86% of such offences going undetected between 2013 and 2015.
Thirteen other districts have also failed to catch offenders in more than 80% of cases over the period.
They include seven districts based in Dublin including Balbriggan, Clondalkin, Terenure and Dun Laoghaire as well as more rural areas such as Baltinglass, Co Wicklow; Thomastown, Co Kilkenny; Clifden, Co Galway and Bruff, Co Limerick.
The results raise questions about the ability of gardaí and the resources available to the force to tackle crime as detection rates for crimes involving property have been falling steadily in recent years.
A review of reported crimes by the Central Statistics Office published in November showed the detection rate for burglary fell from 24% in 2009 to 20% in 2013.
Detection rates for robbery dropped from 52 % to 41% and for theft from 37% to 33%.
Although not broken down by the individual categories, the latest CSO figures show detection rates for such offences are still falling since 2013.
The CSO has expressed caution about official crime figures recorded on Pulse, the garda computer system, after a report by the Garda Inspectorate in 2014 criticised how crimes were logged and classified.
A review by the CSO found that an estimated 20% of crime reported to gardaí was not recorded on Pulse, while gardaí had overstated detection rates by 16%.