Commenting on the provisional headline crime statistics for the first quarter of 2007 published by the Central Statistics Office today, the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell TD, said "The combination of stringent legislation, unprecedented resources for An Garda Síochána and the energetic and focused operations of a fundamentally reformed Garda force are bringing about the positive developments in crime levels which CSO have documented in this and previous quarters.  It is vitally important that we continue to build on the successes which have been achieved.  The Criminal Justice Bill, when enacted, will be central to that strategy."

He continued "The figures for the first quarter of 2007 confirm the positive trend which became evident in the second half of 2006.  The reduction in headline crime of 5.6% in the first quarter, compared with the same quarter in 2006, follows reductions of 2.3% and 1.2% in the fourth and third quarters respectively of 2006.  As a result of this positive trend, there was a decrease of 2.2% in the year-on-year figure at the end of the first quarter.  The Garda Commissioner and the front line members of the Force are to be commended for these results.

I also note the CSO have flagged the dangers in being too simplistic in interpreting crime statistics and I support this.  Since I took the initiative to start publishing crime statistics on a quarterly basis at the beginning of 2003, I have consistently warned of the danger of drawing superficial conclusions from the figures.  The point in relation to using overall figures is well made - a bicycle theft or a theft from a shop cannot be equated to a rape or murder." 

The figures published today continue the series of provisional quarterly headline crime figures issued by the CSO.  This follows the Tánaiste's decision to ask the CSO to take over responsibility for the publication of crime statistics from the Garda Síochána.   

The Tánaiste noted that there were reductions in 24 of the 40 crime categories. Particularly worthy of note is the reduction of 28.6% in the number of murders and manslaughters in the quarter, compared with the same quarter last year.  While the figures are still too high, the year-on-year figure shows a reduction of 7.5%. 

He also noted that there have been decreases in the number of robberies of an establishment or institution (down 28.3% in the quarter and down 10.9% in the year) and of robberies of cash and goods in transit (down 12.5% in the quarter and down 23.1% in the year).  He believes that the recent intensified co-operation between the Gardaí and the banks and security firms has been largely responsible for this positive development and looks forward to a continued high level of co-operation.

He welcomed the continued decrease in the high volume crimes of burglary (down 17.1% in the quarter) and theft from the person (down 5.5%), from MPVs (down 6.7%) and from shops (down 3.2%).   He believes that this results in large part from increased attention being paid to security by businesses, motorists and individuals generally.
 
The Tánaiste expressed concern about the marked decrease in sexual offences.  Noting that reported sexual offences are down 44.5% in the past quarter and 16.6% in the past 12 months, he said this highlighted the need for the Government's proposed constitutional referendum to clarify the law on unlawful carnal knowledge and reassure victims that they would be fairly and humanely treated when reporting sexual crime.

The Tánaiste welcomed the decrease of 66.7% in traffic fatalities in the quarter, which mirrors the figure for the fourth quarter of 2006, saying "This welcome outcome is mirrored in the number of fatal road traffic collisions to date in 2007, which as of 20 April show a reduction of 20 on the same day last year.  While there are still far too many needless deaths, I believe that recent changes in legislation, the continuing high levels of road traffic law enforcement by the Garda Síochána and resulting changes in driver behaviour are now having a significant impact.  However, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent and the strength of the Garda Traffic Corps will continue to increase."

The Tánaiste expressed concern at the increases in fraud offences.  He stressed that it was essential for consumers, financial institutions and businesses to be vigilant and proactive in combating this type of crime, in particular identity fraud, which is becoming more prevalent as our economy becomes more complex.

Crime and Victimisation Survey

Today also sees the publication by the CSO of the results of a crime and victimisation survey carried out in the fourth quarter of 2006, which involved face-to-face interviews in 29,000 households throughout the country.  The Tánaiste said "I welcome this comprehensive and detailed survey which shows reductions in the incidence of theft with and without violence, physical assault, burglary, car, motorcycle and bicycle theft and theft from cars compared with 2003. 

It's interesting to note that although overall people's experience of crime had increased substantially from the first survey in 1998 to 2003, it has actually reduced in the past 3 years to 2006.  There will be many interpretations placed on this but in my view it reflects the fact that in the first years of this Government it took time to correct the neglect of the Rainbow who failed to invest in crime prevention, allowing the number of Gardaí  to drop and the number of prison places to fall.  It took several years to reverse the damage that the revolving door did to the administration of criminal justice system.

These survey results confirm the positive trends in crime reported to the Garda Síochána  since 2003 and this detailed study adds greatly to our knowledge of people's experience and perception of crime.  I note some of the outcomes differ significantly from the recently published EU International Crime Survey which suggested that Ireland's experience of crime was way out of line with other EU member states.  It is now clear that the CSO survey gives a far more representative and reliable sample than the EU survey of 2,000 people with a very low response rate.  While the survey reveals some challenges for An Garda Síochána it is good to see that a majority of Irish people retain their faith in and support for the force.  I have no doubt that faith in the Gardaí  will be reinforced by the wide range of fundamental reforms that I have introduced over the past few years."

The crime statistics are published today on the CSO website (www.cso.ie). 

25 April 2007