Misrepresentation of crime in Ireland
Once again the annual crime statistics have been wilfully sensationalised by the media and politicians.
Pat Rabbitte, now the Labour Party spokesperson on justice, said the figures confirmed reports of a significant rise in crime, especially violent crime.
He said special measures need to be taken to focus on the leaders of the crime gangs. The figures do not confirm a significant rise in crime and the suggestion that criminality by criminal gangs is a significant contributor to the level of crime generally is simply false.
Crime levels have fluctuated from 78,000 to 105,000 for the last 22 years and, given the fact that relatively minor crimes (for instances thefts and burglaries) from over three quarters of all the “headline” crimes, the incidence of serious criminality remains very low by international standards.
There has been an increase in the last few years in the murder rate but this has far more to do with societal changes and pressures than anything to do with the criminal gangs.
A large part of criminality is associated with drugs, not just the importation, sale and possession of drugs, but attendant violence, assaults, murders and thefts. And the drugs phenomenon is a growing, if still marginal, phenomenon.
The hyping of crime has political consequences. It impels the politicians into enacting more and more legislation that curbs individual freedoms, not just of the criminal classes but
Meanwhile, some of the major areas of criminality: sex crime and corporate and tax crime – go unnoticed. The €80 million insider trading scam (so found by the Supreme Court) isn't even recorded in the crime figures.
Sex crimes unreported
Most of the crime statistics are entirely unreliable as indicators of what is actually happening. They should therefore be discounted. Sexual offences, by far the largest actual incidence of criminality – possibly over 100,000 per year – is one of the lowest in terms of reported crime. Increases in the numbers of reported sexual offences may well be an indicator of a welcome improvement in the level of reporting of such crime, but as an indicator of the actual incidence of such crime, it is of no value. Reported crimes against property, in contrast, are a good indicator of the actual incidence of such crimes because most property is insured and theft of property or damage to property has to be reported for insurance claims.
According to the CSO the number of murders in 2007 was 78 but only 50 murders were identified by the Gardaí to the media in that time. So where did the 20 extra murders come from? In spite of the breathless reporting of the media in general and RTE in particular, the preponderance of murders in 2007 came not from gangland killings but occurred in domestic or “social” settings where people resorted to lethal violence to resolve disputes. Mainly knives were used.
Drug “crimes” unreported
The figures on drug crimes are of almost no significance. They depend entirely
on the success of the Gardaí in detecting the importation, sale and possession of drugs. It is obviously from the
figures on drug prevalence that hundreds of thousands of drug “crimes” are committed every year but only a
small proportion of these end up in the crime statistics report.
There is no drugs epidemic
As there is no crime crisis, there is no drugs crisis. Although almost a quarter of the population in the age group 15 to 64 consumed one or more illicit drugs in their lifetime, this dipped to one in fourteen (7.2 per cent) for drug consumption in the previous year and to one in 35 in the previous month.
By far the most ubiquitous drug of choice was the least harmful of illicit drugs, cannabis – 22.9 per cent of this age cohort have consumed cannabis in their lifetime, 6.3 per cent in the previous year (one in sixteen), and 2.06 per cent (one in 38) in the previous month.
Neither is there evidence from the Drug Prevalence Survey published by the National advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) that there is a cocaine epidemic, as represented by the media. Only one in twenty people in the age group ever took cocaine, less than two per cent (one in 59) took cocaine in the previous year and just one in 200 took cocaine in the last month (0.5 per cent).
Thieves are by far the most prevalent criminals in Ireland. For the vast preponderance of reported crime here is theft and burglary, with the amounts involved generally being of small proportions. In 2007 theft and burglary accounted for 76 per cent of all reported crime. In 2006 it accounted for 78 per cent of all reported crime. Theft on its own accounted for 54 per cent of all reported crime in 2007 and 54 per cent in 2006. Not a growing industry. š