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Downward trend Knife crime is not 'reaching epidemic proportions' says Garda chief Drew Harris

Garda Commissioner Harris was also asked at the Policing Authority meeting about the fatal shooting of George Nkencho in west Dublin last December.


Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

Garda commissioner Drew Harris has said that violent knife crime is not as serious as is being portrayed in the media.

The Garda chief said their data is showing a slow but downward trend in the use of knives while seizures have also increased.

Last month two people, a 16-year-old and a mother-of-two, were fatally stabbed in separate attacks in Dublin.

There have also been a number of other serious knife crimes reported to gardaí who are investigating if they were carried out by organised crime gangs.

This afternoon Mr Harris acknowledged that there were a number of tragic recent incidents involving knives but that their data “does not bare out the narrative one sees so often in the media.”

He told a virtual meeting of the Policing Authority that there has been an overall downward trend in knife crimes in the past 10 years.

Mr Harris said the age profiles peak from 18 up to 44, contrary to suggestions that it is an issue amongst younger people, and that hospitalisations from knife injuries are also reducing.

The Garda chief said knives are being used in a variety of crimes, such as robbery, assault and domestic abuse, and that it is “not as clear cut as being portrayed” and not “reaching epidemic proportions”.

Assistant Commissioner Anne Marie Cagney, who has overall responsibility for policing in Dublin, said the serious incidents in the north-inner city had caused a fear factor in the area.

She said that local gardaí and officers from national units are carrying out investigations and attempting to determine if criminal gangs have been involved in a spate of incidents.

“At a more high-level we’re looking at organised crime groupings who may be engaging in emerging trends in this area,” she said, adding that they made further seizures last night.

Ms Cagney also said that there were “linkages” between suspects involved in significant incidents last month in the inner-city and that these matters were currently before the courts.

Garda Commissioner Harris was also asked about the fatal shooting of George Nkencho in west Dublin last December.

He told the authority that the Garda has many areas of consideration in the wake of the shooting and the Black Lives Matter movement, which include having a good relationship with ethnic minorities.


George Nkencho

George Nkencho

George Nkencho

Mr Harris expressed his personal sympathies to the family of Mr Nkencho, who was shot dead in Clonee on December 30, and said that no garda starts their day of work to find themselves in such an awful circumstance.

The 27-year-old was suspected of carrying out an armed shop robbery and gardaí say they attempted to use non-lethal force to restrain him before he was shot dead while armed with a knife.

The shooting is currently being investigated by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

Commissioner Harris said that the fatal shooting has had an impact within the Gardaí and that there are many areas of consideration for them.

This, he said, included having a good relationship with ethnic minorities throughout Ireland from which they want to employ, and fostering good relationships with the communities.

The Policing Authority also discussed a new unit targeting organised crime gangs involved in prostitution and human trafficking.

They were told that a new shipping route, from Rosslare to Dunkirk, has already seen attempts of people smuggling which the gardaí are clamping down on.

Drew Harris said that a protective service bureau has now been rolled out in every division which specially trained detectives to deal with vulnerable victims.

It, comes at a time when there has been an 18pc increase in domestic abuse incidents reported to gardaí.

The Commissioner added the Garda Training College Templemore will re-open to student gardaí next month and that its closure due to Covid has meant an 18-month backlog of training.

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