The crime-solving rate by gardaí has dropped substantially over a five-year period, according to the Central Statistics Office.
The fall in detections between 2010 and 2014 includes significant reductions in relation to sexual offences, burglaries, and robberies.
The CSO explains that the main criteria for classifying an offence as ‘detected’ is when criminal proceedings have been commenced for the offence. However, there are scenarios where crimes may be detected but prosecution is not initiated, including in cases where the perpetrator is dead or is a juvenile or where a key witness will not give evidence, and these are a significant factor in the discrepancy between detected cases and the number of convictions.
Fewer than half of all recorded sex offences and less than a fifth of burglaries in 2014 were detected.
Garda HQ is concerned at the overall downward trend, which is understood to have continued in 2015 and 2016, and have put measures in place to address it.
Senior gardaí suggest factors include a loss of experienced senior investigators and managers, antiquated technology and improved forensic awareness among criminals such as burglars.
The CSO analysis shows a fraction of many recorded crimes end in court, including a fifth of recorded sex crimes and around one eighth of burglaries.
The CSO report also shows that recorded crime has dropped, in many cases by as much as 40%, across 13 of 16 crime categories.
In relation to detections, the trend shows substantial reductions in half of the 16 categories, with marginal falls in another three. The detection rate remained the same in four cases, while in just one case the detection rate went marginally up.
The most prominent reductions in detection rates between 2010-2014 were:
Almost six out of 10 assaults were detected, falling slightly over the time period. Some nine out of 10 weapons and explosive offences were detected in 2014. This was mainly due to high detection rates for offensive weapons (eg, knives), as just two-thirds of firearms offences and only a third of explosive offences were solved.
In relation to cases resulting in prosecutions in 2014, the CSO figures show:
In addition, just over a quarter of recorded assaults (less than half of detected assaults) ended in court.
In a statement, a Garda Síochána spokesman said they have been tracking detection rates and were putting in place an improvement plan to address it.
“Measures already implemented including enhanced training for investigators, the use of the DNA tracking system, the recruitment of additional crime analysts, and the establishment of units with specialised skills in specific crime types such as the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and the National Protective Service Bureau,” said the spokesman.
“As part of our Modernisation and Renewal Programme, a number of new systems such as Investigations Management, CCTV Management, and expansion of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology will provide investigators with up-to-date intelligence and technology to effectively investigate all crimes.”
Cliona Saidlear of Rape Crisis Network Ireland said: “While these statistics show significant low rates of detection of sexual violence crimes, it is hard to draw any conclusions from this year’s statistics because we know that major discrepancies in recording data on the Pulse [computer] system were highlighted by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate.”
She said overcoming the “serious gap” in knowledge needed to be taken very seriously by the authorities.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved