Garda chief gives low-down on latest crime figures in County Wexford

By Maria Pepper

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A 51% reduction in burglaries in County Wexford last year and a 143% increase in drug offence detections were the most dramatic statistics in a crime report presented by Garda Chief Superintendent John Roche at a Joint Policing Committee meeting of Wexford County Council.

'I've never seen such a reduction in burglaries in all my time in the Garda Siochána. It includes domestic and business burglaries', said the senior Garda boss as he unveiled a crime comparison between 2016 and 2015 which also showed a 49.5% drop in incidents of trespass and a 16% reduction in criminal damage during the year.

The continuing downward trend in reported crime was welcomed by councillors who heard that thefts from cars dropped by 32%, general theft by 25% and while there was an increase of 5% in thefts from shops, it was mainly caused by a spike in Wexford town in the lead up to last Christmas. Thefts from shops rose from 485 incidents in 2015 to 510 in 2016

The Chief Superintendent said there had been a big problem with thefts from cars in previous years, particularly in coastal areas of the county but last year saw a reduction from 277 reported incidents to 190.

However, the number of drugs offences rose dramatically during the 12 months with a 143% increase in detections. The number of cases of 'simple possession' rose from 204 in 2015 to 287 last year; incidents of sale and/or supply went from 55 to 99 cases; cultivation offences from 7 to 19 and importation from one to four detected offences.

'That's a huge increase. Sale and supply is the one I worry about. We are seeing a pattern in small single grow houses in people's homes. They grow it anywhere from an attic to a shed. There's a 12-week turnaround in cannabis cultivation and there is a huge profit,' said the Garda chief.

Under the category of Offences Against the Person, there was an increase from 66 to 86 incidents in assault causing harm; an increase from 306 to 311 in minor assault and a drop from 658 to 624 in public order offences during the year.

'Where are the assaults taking place. Only 19 of them happened in the centre of towns. Most happen in houses and housing estates which shows the change in our drinking culture - fathers and sons and neighbours fighting with each other. Schools are a surprise venue and a couple of sporting events,' said Chief Superintendent Roche.

'When you look at it, they are not happening in North Main Street or outside Benedict's. The vast majority are happening in houses.'

The number of people driving without seat belts continued to rise with 654 offences in 2015 and 830 last year, a worrying statistic because of the liklihood of serious injury in the event of collision, according to the Garda chief who said: 'People are not wearing seat belts.'

Meanwhile, the number of people caught using a mobile phone while driving was slightly down from 1277 in 2015 to 1264 last year.

The number of drivers intercepted by a Garda while exceeding the speed limit rose from 1087 to 1471 while the number of non-intercept speeding offences in 2016 was 5,330.

Chief Superintendent Roche cited the case of an 18-year old 'young fella in the Wexford area who was detected driving at 136 km an hour in a 60km zone with a big 'L' plate in the window, while unaccompanied.'

On the positive side, there was a 43% drop in the number of fatal accidents from 7 in 2015 to 4 in 2016. By contrast,there was a 14% increase in drink driving cases, from 210 in 2015 to 240 last year.

The Garda chief offered a comparison between crime figures in January and February 2015 and the first two months of 2017 showing major reductions in burglary(69%), criminal damage (44%), theft from shops (38%), theft from cars (60%) and general theft (45%).

Wexford People