NOW that the threat from the Coronavirus appears to be receding, we need to exhibit greater awareness of another, no less dangerous menace within our midst. While overall crime figures have dropped over the past few months, one of the most worrying fallouts from the easing of restrictions has been a rise in violent attacks in recent days.
When strict lockdown measures were introduced towards the end of March there was a noticeable drop in some - but by no means all - forms of crime. The number of domestic burglaries fell considerably but at the same time commercial premises were targeted by roaming gangs trying to take advantage of closures.
There was, however, a noticeable increase in domestic violence. A Garda report reveals that there has been a 25% increase in such cases this year, a situation largely attributed to the pandemic. More than 100 people have since been prosecuted for abuse and assaults in homes.
There was also a rise in fraud and cybercrime during the height of the lockdown as criminals were quick to capitalise on people’s fears and anxieties in a time of crisis. One victim was the singer Daniel O'Donnell. Fraudsters set up a fake account impersonating him on Instagram and looking for donations to a non-existent charity.
Now as we set about returning to a semblance of normality, we must remain vigilant to organised and disorganised crime. The past two weeks has seen an upsurge in crime. Intimidation, abuse, physical assaults and opportunistic lawlessness have all risen nationwide. Even the gardaí are not immune.
On Sunday night last the home of a garda in Co Louth was the subject of an arson attack. According to the Garda Representative Association, it is one of a growing number of attacks on gardaí. The garda officer's home was targeted in the arson attack, while his pregnant wife and two children were inside the house, in the Bay Estate area of Dundalk. The family escaped uninjured but significant damage was caused to the exterior of the home.
The night before, in the Cork suburb of Carrigaline, a 17-year-old youth was viciously and repeatedly stabbed while, closer to the city, in the Glen area, there has been a disturbing rise in anti-social behaviour. Local authorities around the country have seen a huge spike in illegal dumping, with flytippers using the lockdown to covertly discard their rubbish.
The one, overriding thing that has helped to contain Covid-19 in Ireland is social solidarity. That meant doing the simple things like hygiene and social distancing well and looking out for one another. We now need to bring that same sense of awareness and urgency to all crime, from gang violence to anti-social behaviour. We have a good and dedicated Garda force but its members can’t be everywhere, which is why a vigilant public is essential.
Every law-abiding citizen has a duty to help bring criminals to justice because, virus or no virus, the only immunity from crime is vigilance and social responsibility. We need to continue to look out for one another.
Criminals don’t do lockdown unless it’s behind bars.