Priority Questions. - Crime Reporting.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

3 Mr. O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Justice the steps, if any, she has taken to establish whether any fall-off has occurred in the reporting of crime, particularly petty crime, to the Garda thereby distorting Garda crime figures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9223/97]

The crime rate is usually measured with reference to the number of indictable offences reported or known to the Garda, i.e. those offences which must be tried before a judge and jury in the Circuit Court. Summary offences, i.e. those offences which are dealt with at District Court level — these are in the main traffic related offences and the less serious criminal offences — are not included. This measurement of crime is in accordance with standard international practice and has always been used in this jurisdiction.

Provisional Garda statistics for 1996 indicate that the number of indictable offences reported or known to the Garda decreased in comparison to the 1995 figure. I am informed by the Garda authorities there is no evidence to indicate the decrease in the number of indictable offences recorded by the Garda in 1996 is associated or connected with a decrease in the level of reporting of such offences by the public.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

I will permit one concluding supplementary question as I must deal with Question No. 4 within the allocated time.

Does the Minister accept that crimes such as simple larceny are only reported for insurance purposes? Does she further accept that 90 per cent of shoplifting offences throughout the country are undetected, and, for that reason, unreported? In this context, does she accept that the experience of people living in Ennis, County Clare, indicates that tackling smaller crimes has a considerable bearing on reductions in larger and lesser crimes in a given region?

No, I do not accept that simple larceny is only reported for insurance purposes. I have no evidence that that is the case and the Deputy has not produced any evidence in that regard. Equally, I do not accept that 90 per cent of shoplifting is only reported for insurance purposes. Many people are indicted for shoplifting.

I did not say that.

The Deputy did say it, that was the basis of his question. He stated that crimes such as simple larceny are only reported for insurance purposes. That is not the case. People report larcenies and shoplifting offences for the purposes of having these crimes investigated. All crimes reported to the Garda are investigated and, where possible, evidence is gathered and prosecutions carried out. That is the current situation.