Recorded crime statistics from Q2 2020 show a decrease in the number of incidents across many categories including homicides, burglaries and offences against the government. However, the number of domestic abuse incidents being reported has increased significantly this year. Megan O’Brien analyses the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on crime.
Recorded crime figures fell dramatically in April to June as a result of the restrictions that were introduced by the Government over the first six months of the year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that there was a decrease in 11 out of 14 categories of crime in the second quarter of 2020 alone in comparison to the same time period in 2019.
The biggest decrease was seen in offences against Government, justification procedures and organisation of crime where there were 2,630 less incidents representing a decrease of 59.6%. Homicide offences dropped by 23% with 13 offences in the first quarter of 2020 compared to 17 in the same time period last year.
Three categories that saw significant drops were: Robbery, extortion and hijacking (-29.9%), burglary and related offences (-52.8%) and theft and related offences (-38.7%). Combining these three categories together in both quarters for comparison purposes, there is a dramatic contrast. As represented in the graph below, there were 21,592 incidences in Q2 2019 and only 12,747 in the same period this year showing a 40.9% decrease.
There was an increase in only three categories with the sharpest increase seen in kidnapping and related offences where there was an increase of 43.5% as the number of offences jumped by 10 from 23 to 33.
While decreases can be seen in many categories of crime, we are seeing a different pattern when it comes to the number of domestic abuse incidents. Gardai have recorded a high number of cases this year following the introduction of movement restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Safe Ireland’s latest report ‘Tracking the Shadow Pandemic’ shows that incidences of domestic violence and coercive control have increased dramatically in 2020.
3,450 women and 589 children contacted a domestic abuse service for the first time between March and August this year according to the report. These represent ‘new’ cases and an average of 1,970 women as well as 411 children received support from a service every month with July and August the busiest.
As of the 12th of October 2020, 15,320 victims of domestic abuse had been contacted by the Gardai as part of Operation Faoiseamh with all of these contact calls being for incidents that were reported between January 1st and October 12th 2020.
Operation Faoiseamh formed as part of An Garda Siochana’s community response plan to COVID-19. Phase 1 launched on the 1st of April with the goal of providing enhanced support and protection to victims of domestic abuse during the public health crisis as it became evident that victims were potentially at a higher risk during lockdown and periods of restricted movement.
Phase 3 of Operation Faoiseamh, a Gardai operation to protect victims of domestic abuse commenced on the 28th of October 2020 and as part of the third phase, they will be actively enforcing court orders and focusing on the prosecution of offenders. They will also be reaching out to previous victims to provide support and offer assistance.
Speaking about the operation, Detective Chief Superintendent Declan Daly from the National Protective Services Bureau said: “Prior to the commencement of Operation Faoiseamh I assured victims experiencing domestic abuse that An Garda Síochána were available to assist you in this difficult time. An Garda Síochaná are mindful of the fear and concern some in our community may have at this time. I wish to take this opportunity to re-emphasise our commitment to protect the most vulnerable in society. Operation Faoiseamh has been established to ensure you are safe, if you feel threatened or are in fear please contact us and we will respond quickly and robustly.”