Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Crime trends in Ireland

Apparently there has been an increase in crime against property and naturally people are linking it to the recession. But this argument is based on the supply of criminals. On the other hand there's less to steal. So do we have any proper evidence?
About 5 years ago some of us did a report for the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform (which seemed to sink without a trace funnily enough). We found no evidence of labour market effects but as spending rises one gets more lucrative but fewer crimes. Details of a working paper version below:

An Econometric Analysis of Burglary In Ireland
K.Denny, C.Harmon
& R.Lydon
This paper outlines an econometric model of the level of burglary in Ireland between 1952 and 1998. We explain the evolution of the trend in Burglary in terms of demographic factors: in this case the share of young males in the population, the macro-economy in the form of consumer expenditure and two characteristics of the criminal justice system : the detection rate for these crimes and the size of the prison population. The share of young males is associated with higher levels of these crimes. Imprisonment and detection act as powerful forces for reducing crimes, the effects of aggregate consumption are more difficult to pin down but we show that higher spending is associated with more lucrative but probably fewer crimes. One somewhat surprising result is that we were unable to find any robust effect from direct measures of labour market activity such as unemployment rates or wage levels.



Martin Ryan said...

It doesn't relate to crime against property, but there is some recent evidence that drug and gun crime has been hit by the recession. It was reported in the Irish Times at the weekend that CSO figures show a fall in drugs and gun crime:


New CSO data shows detections for drug-dealing declined in 18 of the 28 Garda divisions across the State in the first nine months of 2009. The CSO figures represent the first time that crime data has been broken down on a Garda division by division basis.

The CSO Crime and Justice page is available here:


The CSO two years ago assumed responsibility from the Garda for compiling and publishing crime statistics. Looking at some of the principal statistics (admittedly very quickly) it appears that from 2002 onwards (before the recession) there have been secular increases in many instances of crime. It would be interesting to know (after a more studious examination) if Ireland is indeed becoming a more criminal society.

For northsiders, this quote from the Irish Times article may be somewhat amusing:
"While many believe north Dublin has a much more significant gun culture than south Dublin, the real split is between the east and west of the city."

Kevin Denny said...

Actually that doesn't surprise me the south/north divide in Dublin is something of a myth in general its east/west: think Howth/Ballyfermot.
Its good that the CSO are looking after crime statistics. Our study went up to 1998, the system for recording changed as the Gardai brought in PULSE, a new information system which would make it difficult to compare before and after.
But with cross section variation it might be possible to do a panel study. A snag is that Garda divisions may not map easily into other regional data.

Martin Ryan said...

I had a humourous letter about Dublin published in the Times on "North/South versus East/West" on January 29th 2002.


Apologies to the denizens of Castleknock.

Martin Ryan said...

As Kevin would say, lest the heavily ironic tone in which that letter was written is not transparent, it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek. And was accepted as such by the Editor, I think. I don't want to start anything along the lines of Tupac versus Biggie...

Kevin Denny said...

Is that some sort of rap reference at the end?
I tried to read your letter but it needed a password or something. May be best to avoid the mean streets of Castelknock.

Martin Ryan said...

Yeah - if I have it right Tupac was from the Westside (L.A.) and Biggie was from the Eastside (New Yark).