THEFTS from shops in Cork were up sharply in the first two months of this year compared to the same period last year, but this was partially explained by the ending of covid restrictions, a Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting has heard.
Chief Superintendent Vincent O’Sullivan briefed local politicians on the crime figures for Cork City, North and West Divisions during January and February, 2023.
“The biggest driver for the increase in crime is shoplifting and theft ‘other’,” said Chief Supt O’Sullivan. Property crimes increased in Cork city from 514 incidents to 827 this year, but crimes against the person fell from 255 incidents to 196 during the period.
In Cork North, the figures showed that property crimes rose from 103 offences last year to 216 this year, while crimes against the person fell from 122 to 95 offences.
Cork West saw a slight increase in property crimes, up from 64 to 69, while crimes against the person rose from 67 incidents to 71.
Burglaries, not aggravated, rose in Cork City, from 31 to 38, thefts of vehicles climbed from 63 to 70, and interfering with vehicles jumped from 23 incidents to 71. Thefts from shops also jumped from 186 incidents to 332: thefts from vehicles (50 up to 78); bicycle thefts (21 up to 38), and thefts of other property rose from 106 reports to 168 this year.
“This time last year, we were just starting to come out of covid,” said Chief Supt O’Sullivan.
“Now we see more people around, and more thefts are occurring from shops.”
In Cork North the figures are: Burglaries, not aggravated (less than 10 up to 13 this year); thefts of vehicles (10 up to 11); thefts from shops (47 up to 93), and thefts of other property (21 up to 71).
Nearly half of all ‘other’ property thefts in North Cork are drive-offs from filling stations where drivers don’t pay for fuel, said Chief Supt O’Sullivan.
Cork West Division saw a fall in unaggravated burglaries from 13 last year to less than 10 this year. Thefts from shops went up from 16 to 25 incidents, and thefts of other property fell from 22 to 18 incidents. Thefts from vehicles jumped from less than 10 incidents to 11 events.
“Thefts from vehicles is a big riser there. In January of this year, there was a single night where eight thefts from cars occurred in the one night, with a crew travelling into estates and breaking into unlocked cars,” said Chief Supt O’Sullivan.
“They were stealing relatively small amounts of money, as in loose change.”
Assaults causing harm in Cork City fell from 44 offences to 30 this year, and minor assaults fell from 152 incidents to 137. Cork North saw a rise in assaults causing harm (25 to 28), but a decline in minor assaults (60 to 46). In Cork West, assaults causing harm remained unchanged at less than 10 incidents, and minor assaults remained unchanged, at 43 incidents.
In Cork City, criminal damage incidents remained unchanged, at 191 incidents: public order offences declined, from 186 to 140 offences, while drunkenness offences fell from 177 to 148 incidents. Arson fell from 12 to less than 10 incidents.
In Cork North, the corresponding figures are: criminal damage is up from 54 to 82 incidents; public order offences rose from 51 to 60 reports, but drunkenness offences fell from 58 to 37 incidents.
Rollout of a new swabbing system for drug driving has seen an increase in the reports of intoxicated driving. Cork City recorded a rise in driving while intoxicated, from 41 incidents to 43, Cork North saw an increase from 57 to 80, but Cork West saw a fall from 29 reports to 23 this year.
“We’re finding in the rural areas, that our figures haven’t seen that dramatic an increase,” said Chief Supt O’Sullivan.
Targeting larger towns is seeing results, using the new saliva test kit that was launched in UCC in December last year.
While there were no fatal collisions in January and February this year, there was one in early March, and Chief Supt O’Sullivan offered his condolences to the family. “It just reiterates the need that we can’t become complacent with our traffic policing.”
Non-serious injury traffic collisions in Cork city rose from 15 to 26 incidents, while material damage only collisions climbed from 488 to 576 incidents.
Reports of rapes in Cork City rose from less than 10 incidents last year, to 11 this year, while sexual assaults, not aggravated, remained at 22 incidents. Cork North saw a fall in sexual assaults, from 13 to less than 10, while in Cork West, sexual offences remained unchanged at less than 10 incidents.
Drugs for sale and supply offences fell from 43 incidents to 35 this year in Cork City, and drugs possession cases declined from 137 to 110. In Cork North, sale and supply cases went from 21 to 20, while personal use cases increased from 78 to 97. The figures for Cork West were: Sale and supply cases decreased from 13 to 11; personal use cases remained unchanged at 23 incidents.
Domestic abuse cases rose by 9% in Cork City, 4% in Cork North, and by 3% in Cork West.
“This would be a concern. We would appeal to any vulnerable person to make contact with us,” said Chief Supt O’Sullivan.
Meanwhile, Drinagh, Blarney, and Durrus Garda Stations are in need of gardaí to fill certain positions, the JPC heard.
Fianna Fáil councillor Joe Carroll requested that the vacancy that has arisen in Drinagh Garda Station in West Cork due to retirement be filled as soon as possible.
Mr Carroll said there is no garda in Drinagh village, a central base for one of the strongest co-ops in West Cork, meaning that there is valuable machinery in the area.
The presence of a garda is necessary, and constituents have contacted Mr Carroll saying they don’t want the word to go out that Drinagh has no gardaí.
“If you have a break-in, you’re waiting for someone to come from far away,” said Mr Carroll.
Chief Supt O’Sullivan said he is anxious to fill it, but that he doesn’t have the resources at present. It has been advertised, and gardaí sought expressions of interest.
If other gardaí can be freed up, that will be done. “I have a couple of members out injured at the moment. I can’t give a definitive time, but it is a priority with me to fill Drinagh Station,” he said. “As soon as I have the resources to put in Drinagh, I would be delighted to put someone in Drinagh.”
Independent councillor Karen Coakley said Drinagh is central to the geography of the area, near Drimoleague, Dunmanway, the back of Leap, and Skibbereen. “It’s very central, and there is a lot of traffic passing through,” she said.
“I would share the fear that there are a lot of criminals that are passing through. When you hear of an empty garda station, I would support Cllr Carroll, that this would be prioritised.”
Fianna Fáil Cork North Central TD Padraig O’Sullivan asked if additional Garda personnel can be provided to Blarney Garda Station. This should fulfil the commitment to provide a full-time garda based in Carrignavar station, replacing the retired Garda Walsh, he said.
A Garda member from Blarney Garda Station is currently detailed for duty at Carrignavar Garda Station when availability resources allow, said Chief Supt O’Sullivan. The vacancy at Carrignavar will be filled on a full-time basis when additional resources are allocated to the division.
It is anticipated that additional probationary gardaí will be allocated from the intake at the Garda College which will allow for redeployment of an experienced member to Carrignavar, or should there be an earlier transfer on to the division, this may allow for this vacancy to be filled.
Danny Crowley of Youthreach asked if there was an update on filling a position in Durrus Garda Station. Garda John Dowling retired in the new year after eight years of dedicated service.
Chief Supt O’Sullivan said expressions of interest have been sought for Durrus and it’s hoped to be filled when a suitable candidate is identified.