2.8 Crime and Justice
CSO issues data on a quarterly basis on offences of crime, across the main categories (14) and sub-categories of crime. These data are based on reported offences recorded on the PULSE Garda system and are available for Garda Divisions and Garda Stations (not all categories for the latter).
Most Prevalent Reported Offences
In Limerick Garda Division, covering the city and county, the largest number of reported offences in each year between 2007 and 2021 are “theft and related offences” (2,768 in 2021), “public order and other social code offences” (1,380 in 2021) and “damage to property and the environment“ (1,180 in 2021). Other categories where there are consistently larger numbers of reported offences are “offences against government, justice procedures and organisation of crime” (949 offences in 2021), “attempts / threats to murder, assaults, harassments and related offences” (876 in 2021) and “controlled drug offences” (839 in 2021).
Trends in Crime & Types of Offences
In terms of change since 2007, the general trend has been downwards especially up to 2016 but there have been fluctuations in specific years. For instance, of the 14 categories of offences, 10 showed a decline in the number of offences between the year 2007 and 2021. Exceptions are “sexual offences” (+70% from 2007), “robbery, extortion and hijacking offences” (+43%), “fraud, deception and related offences” (+208%) and “offences against government, justice procedures and organisation of crime” (+206%). In these cases, the number of offences were greater in 2021 compared with 2007. Part of the explanation for the increase in sexual offences (146 in 2021) is that such offences are more likely to be reported by victims now compared with earlier years (and this is linked to public awareness campaigns and other action to encourage reporting of sexual offences).
There was a downward trend in certain categories of offences (“dangerous or negligent acts”, “robbery extortion and hijacking”, “theft and related offences” and “fraud, deception and related offences”) during COVID (2019 to 2021) especially between 2019 and 2020.
In relation to more serious offences, between 2007 and 2010, there were between seven (2008) and 10 homicides (2010) in Limerick. The number of homicides declined after that with two to four recorded in the years 2011 to 2014. The number was high again in 2017 (7) but from 2019 to 2021, two such offences were recorded in each year.
“Kidnapping and related offences”, which also represent more serious crimes, recorded from six (6) to nine (9) offences in years from 2007 to 2011, declined to three such offences in 2012 (the lowest recorded number), increased again from 2017 to 2019 (highest at 12) and were relatively high in 2021 (10 offences).
“Attempts/threats to murder, assaults, harassments and related offences” declined between 2007 through to 2016 but the number of such reported offences was over 900 in each year from 2017 through to 2019 and while it declined in 2020 (784), the number of such offences increased again in 2021 (876).
“Controlled drug offences” recorded the highest number of such offences in 2010 (1,100). Since that time, the trend showed a decline up to 2015 but an increase the number of such offences in 2019 and 2020 (882 in 2020) and remaining high in 2021 (839). This was one of the categories of offences that did not decline during COVID.
“Weapons and explosives offences” (128 in 2021), “damage to property and the environment” (1,180 in 2021), “public order and social code offences” (1,380 in 2021) show a relatively consistent decline in the number of reported offences over the years since 2007. These declines may be connected in part to the roll-out of CCTV across the city and county.
Overall, data on reported crime (offences) for Limerick Division shows a general downward trend compared with the period when Limerick City was considered to have a serious crime problem (2006-2010).
In categories of offences showing significant increase over the years (e.g., “offences against government, justice” and “sexual offences”), some of this is accounted for by an increase in reporting the crime (and does not necessarily represent a large increase in the incidence of the crime). As the economy recovered post the Great Recession, certain types of offences also showed an increase (e.g., “controlled drug offences”, “fraud, deception and related offences”). This shows that economic conditions can influence crime rates - for instance, in boom times certain offences show an increase and with the significant reduction in circulation of people in social activity during COVID, certain offences showed a decrease. While crime in Limerick generally seems within normal incidence rates for a Division which includes a large urban area, crime and criminal activity remain live issues for on-going attention in Limerick.
Specific sub-categories of offences are associated with youth crime. Four or five types of offences account for approximately 50% of the crimes committed by young people. The general picture is one of decline in recorded offences in most of these sub-categories, particularly comparing the situation in 2007 with 2017.
However, a small number of offences are as high as, or close to the level they were at, in 2007. These are “theft from shop” with 1,480 offences reported in 2021 compared with 978 in 2007, “possession of drugs for personal use” (638 in 2021 compared with 610 in 2007), and “possession of drugs for sale or supply” (188 in 2021 compared with 211 in 2007). Drug-related crime are a particular cause of concern in communities. Drug-related crime impacts badly on most disadvantaged communities, fuelling other types of crimes (theft) and making neighbourhoods and other spaces unsafe. Low incomes and lack of economic opportunities for young people, especially those not in work or education, could be amongst the explanatory factors for the increase in theft from shops.
There has been a significant drop in disorderly conduct over the years. The number of reported offences in this sub-category - often associated with anti-social behaviour – has dropped from 2,050 in 2007 to 1,052 in 2016 (-49%) and 638 in 2021 (-70% compared with 2007). Theft of vehicles has declined significantly with almost 1,000 reported offences in 2007 compared with 149 in 2021 – the lowest number of reported offences in this category over all the years. Criminal damage decreased consistently from 2007 (2,775 offences) to 2021 (188 offences) but showed a slight increase in 2019 and 2020 compared with 2018.
While many offences associated with youth crime have shown decreases in Limerick (with the exception of drug-related crime and theft from shops), certain offences are causes for concern in communities. Crime associated with vulnerable young people requires on-going attention.
Imprisonment rates – for offenders that are apprehended, convicted and sentenced under the criminal justice system – by home address of adult persons committed shows higher rates for Counties which include a city (Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford). Changes in such rates can result from differences in crime detection rates, in gaining convictions in the courts and changes in policies and attitudes related to the appropriateness of imprisonment as punishment.
Bearing these factors in mind, the rates of imprisonment per 100,000 population aged 18+, across all of the five counties which include a city decreased especially since 2017 compared with the previous years (2014 to 2016).
The rate for adults receiving custodial sentences with a home address in Limerick in 2014 was 665.7 per 100,000 persons aged 18 years and over compared with 289.56 in 2019 and 246.94 in 2020. The differences in the rates of imprisonment across the five counties that include a city all reduced in 2018, 2019 and 2020 compared with the earlier period. Rates of imprisonment across these counties have shown some convergence over these years. For each year, however, the imprisonment rate is highest for prisoners with home addresses in Limerick.
There is extensive research evidence showing the association between social exclusion, crime, offending behaviour and imprisonment. There are difficulties for prisoners in reintegration back into society on release, and a vicious cycle of factors that are difficult to break. The prison population shows concentrations of males, people with low education, with an address in deprived neighbourhoods, family and personal histories of unemployment, untreated mental health conditions, drug addiction problems and personal histories of childhood trauma.
Imprisonment has a strong negative impact on families and maternal incarceration has a particularly negative impact on child well-being. Again using the counties that include a city, there has been a decrease in the percentage of female prisoners from a high of just under one-third of prisoners (30%-33%) in the worst cases in 2015 to under one-fifth in the worst case in 2019. The percentage of prisoners that were female with a home address in Limerick was 16.6% in 2019 and 14.5% in 2020 compared with 32.5% in 2015. In four of the six years analysed, Limerick showed the highest percentage of female prisoners. Waterford and Limerick were the counties with the highest percentage of female prisoners in all years.
 Crime and Justice Data. https://www.cso.ie/en/statistics/crimeandjustice/
 The main type of offence driving this category are breaches of bail and court orders. The number of such offences increased from 2013. An explanation for this is that such offences were not recorded systematically or to the same extent in earlier years.
 Data from Irish Prison Service statistics. https://www.irishprisons.ie/information-centre/statistics-information/yearly-statistics/