Crime In Ireland: Is It Safe For Tourists?

Travelling and moving abroad for work is easier than it has ever been. Even though this has not necessarily been true for the last two years, the slow easing of lockdowns around the world is starting to see more and more itchy-footed travellers venture out into the world once more.

This is great news, not only for people working in the tourism industry in countries around the world, but also for everyone else who has missed the energy and excitement that tourists bring to their hometowns.

Ireland is no exception to this, with tourism bringing in €9.3 billion in 2019, a 1% decrease from the all-time high in 2018 (the following two years obviously being much lower).

As tourists prepare to return to the Emerald Isle however, opportunistic thieves may also be preparing for people from Europe, America, and beyond to flock to Ireland in a mood of gay abandon.

So is Ireland safe for tourists? The short answer is yes, Ireland’s position as one of the safest countries on Earth being confirmed by the Global Peace Index, which has Ireland placed in 8th, right between Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

However, Our reputation as a friendly and welcoming nation does not, unfortunately, mean that we don’t have crime in Ireland.

Most common types of crime in Ireland

 

Crime in Ireland doesn’t often feature in global headlines the same way as larger, more populous countries do. We don’t have issues with terrorism that countries like the UK and France have had over the last number of years, and we don’t have the same heavy-metal chaos on the streets that we see from the United States.

Even though our crime rates aren’t as extreme as many other countries in the world, they still exist. Here are the five most common types of crime in Ireland according to the Irish Central Statistics Office.

Theft

This is the most common type of crime committed in Ireland by a long way. Petty crimes like pickpocketing and shoplifting occur more than twice as often as the second most common type of crime. In 2020, there were 67,000 instances of theft and related offences. That’s plenty of sneaky, grasping, little hands to look out for.

Public order offences

Probably the least serious, and most Irish, crime on this list, public order offences are the second most common type of crime in Ireland. These offences cover everything from being drunk, being threatening and insulting, to urinating in a public space. Basically just being a dick in public.

I’m surprised there aren’t more than 32,000 cases of public order offences.

Property and environmental damage 

The third most common type of crime, property and environmental damage, is unsurprisingly in relation to destruction of property and the environment. Mostly covering littering and vandalism, these crimes are committed over 21,000 times throughout Ireland.

Obviously these are the people who are caught. So all those dicks spray painted on every Irish alleyway may not have been counted.  

Assault

A much more serious crime, and probably the one on this list that would concern tourists the most, assuming people don’t enjoy random punches to the back of the head. Assaults are quite rare, and the number of cases given is 20,000, but this covers attempts or threats of murder and violence, harrasment, and related offences.

Even though this figure seems high, violent attacks against tourists are quite rare and easy to avoid. You just need to be aware of where you are, and who you are with.

Drug offences

There are roughly 19-22,000 reported drug offences reported per year in Ireland. This actually seems quite low considering “drug offences” cover, well, every single drug out there. From drugs like heroin to that pesky devil’s lettuce. Crimes related to marijuna account for a large percentage of drug-related arrests in Ireland. 

It’s good to see that these laws have been so effective; with weed only being sold in every fourth student household nowadays. Progress.

Trafficking with intent to sell is still a very serious offence in Ireland, punishable by €25,000 fines and up to a year in prison. Possession however, is not so serious. Due to the Adult Caution Scheme, you can be let off with a warning for possession of smaller amounts of marijuana. Genuine progress.

Counties with the highest crime rates

Every country on Earth has a few areas that have a higher crime rate than others, and these areas are, surprise surprise, cities. Ireland is no different. 

Even though Ireland is a very safe country when compared to most other nations on earth, our urban areas still have some issues with crime. With different cities having issues with different types of crime. Here are some of the counties in Ireland, and the crimes associated with them.

Dublin

Being the capital, and having a population double any other urban area in Ireland, Dublin is obviously also where most crime occurs. It will be much to the delight of people from the west of Ireland, who all seem to have a deep and irrational hate for Dublin, to learn that Dublin’s crime rate is not only high because of its high population – it also has a high crime rate per capita compared to the rest of the country.

Dublin leads the crime leaderboards with offences like theft, fraud, and drug offences. Most of these crimes however, are focused on certain areas, like the north inner city. But as long as they are cautious, there is no real need for tourists to worry.

Limerick

Limerick’s reputation as a crime hotspot is almost a meme at this point. Earning the nickname “stab city” due to higher rates of knife crime. Even though it’s fun for the rest of the country to give Limerick shit about this, it’s not really fair. 

A recent Forbes article which referred to Limerick by this nickname was removed due to it failing to meet editorial standards

The crimes that Limerick leads with in Ireland however, are sex crimes and damange to public property. Again, this is a side to Limerick that tourists won’t usually see and it remains a popular stopping point for tourists travelling along the west coast.

Waterford

The southeast is probably the part of Ireland that is most neglected by tourists (besides the midlands), but Waterford’s beautiful beaches are still a popular spot for tourists from abroad and from Ireland.

Waterford city however, has a slightly worse reputation. Having Ireland’s highest rates for assault, weapons, and explosives offences.

Louth

Foriegn tourists only really travel through Louth when they’re driving between Dublin and Belfast, and it has a low number of tourists compared to many other Irish counties.

This county however, and its main towns Dundalk and Drogheda, have been on the news a lot in recent years due to its high rates of gang violence. 

Kerry

One of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations, Kerry actually has a quite low rate of crime against tourists. It does however, have the highest rate of public order offences.

You’re unlikely to be attacked, but you may be incoherently yelled at.

Are crime rates falling or rising in Ireland?

It won’t be too surprising to hear that crime rates have mostly dropped over the last couple of years due to coronavirus lockdowns. Overall, crime rates in Ireland have been slowly rising since the early 90’s. The worst year for crime was 2007, likely due to the financial crisis, and the lowest rates in the 21st century so far being in 2015.

Since then, rates have begun to climb again, but are still much lower than the 2007 peak. 

The crimes that have dropped due to lockdown restrictions are:

  • Sexual offences
  • Assault
  • Theft
  • Burglary
  • Public order offences
  • Property and environmental damages

There are, however, some crimes that have risen since lockdown began. These are:

  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Drug offences
  • Weapons offences

Tips for staying safe as a tourist in Ireland

Irish people are incredibly friendly and welcoming to tourists, and even though issues like racism still exist as much as they do anywhere, tourists usually seem to leave the island with high opinions of the people.

Even though crime rates have been steadily rising over the last few decades, crimes against tourists are very uncommon. The most common crimes committed against tourists being robbery (pickpocketing etc) and car theft, since rental cars seem to be a more attractive target for some reason.

Violent crimes such as mugging and assault against tourists aren’t unheard of however. Here are some tips to avoid crime while visiting Ireland.

Staying safe on a night out

Ireland’s pub culture is one of the biggest attractions for tourists, with 3.5 million flocking to Temple Bar every year. Unfortunately, being charged €15 for a pint is not considered a crime, but any area packed with drunk tourists is going to be a hotspot for petty theft.

Pace yourself

One way to ensure that you don’t get targeted by thieves is to not get completely shitfaced. Any tourist stumbling around a city center at night might as well be flinging handfuls of cash around. You don’t need to out drink the Irish to gain some respect. As hilarious as drunk Americans are to the Irish, you’d probably be best served by taking it easy.

Beware the charm

You may have heard that Irish people are charming – it is one stereotype that is true, and all criminals aren’t greasy, spaced-out gobshites waiting for you do do something stupid. Some people may approach you and tell you about a “lesser-known” Irish pub only a few minutes walk away. Don’t follow anyone you don’t know, especially if you’re alone.

Criminals may also be working with a partner. Be aware of allowing yourself to be distracted by someone, only to have his pal sneak up behind and grab your wallet.

Stay in a group

“There’s safety in numbers” is a bit of a cliche, but that doesn’t make it less true. You’re much more likely to be targeted if you’re by yourself. You don’t have to cling to people constantly, but just be aware of where you and your friends are at all times.

Don’t be a loudmouth

I’m pretty sure this rule applies globally, but don’t be a belligerent arsehole on a night out. Irish people are (mostly) a reasonable bunch, but if you’re at a pub insulting people or trying to start fights you will succeed, and you’ll get little sympathy.

Take a taxi home

Unless you’re at a venue very close to your hotel or hostel, or if you’re on a pub crawl organised by a hostel and have a lot of people with you, it’s advised to take a taxi back rather than walk. They can be expensive, especially in Cork and Dublin, but better safe than sorry.

Be politically aware

Violence and tensions in Northern Ireland have eased dramatically over the last few decades, but the fallout from Brexit has caused some of these tensions to rise again. If you plan to travel between Ireland and Northern Ireland, make sure you’re aware of recent border situations, and make sure you don’t say anything stupid to the wrong people. Examples include:

  • Be careful when referring to anyone as Irish/British.
  • Avoid initiating conversations about religion and politics altogether.
  • Don’t attend political rallies.
  • Be careful of what clothes you wear, don’t wear an Irish football jersey in a unionist area for example.
  • Don’t ever order an “Irish Car Bomb” at any pub in Ireland.

Avoiding theft

Europe is full of gangs who hop from country to country, targeting tourists. It can be easy to forget or even be unaware that there are pickpockets around major tourist areas in Europe. Here are simple ways to avoid theft.

In urban areas

Towns and cities are hotspots for pickpockets during peak holiday seasons, and criminals find creative ways to get their grubby hands on your stuff. An easy way to avoid this is to simply put any valuables in a zipped bag or pocket, or, if you don’t mind being made fun of, wear a fanny-pack tucked under your shirt. 

In rural areas

In rural hotspots like The Wild Atlantic Way, the Ring of Kerry, and many popular hiking spots, criminals may target cars parked by tourists. Many travellers tend to leave bags, phones, and laptops in cars while they do some exploring. If you can’t leave anything at your hotel or hostel, just make sure that any valuables in your car are kept out of sight.

People likely won’t bother breaking into a car unless they’re certain they contain something of value.

Credit card crime

“Skimming” has become a common and effective way for criminals to get access to people’s credit card information without having to get hold of someone’s wallet. Skimming entails the use of a small device which can be attached to an ATM, and allows the details of any card used to be scanned and copied.

Recently there have been dozens of arrests related to skimming, but Gardai warn that it is still quite prevalent. Especially on ATMs in public areas, like the walls of pubs and shops.

Signs of skimming devices to look out for are if parts of an ATM have different colours, materials, or textures to the rest of the machine, or if some of the text on the screens doesn’t align properly. If there are two ATMs next to each other, quickly compare the two to make sure nothing is out of place. If anything feels off, don’t use it.

The safest way to draw money is by using ATM’s inside of banks or near Garda stations.

 

Overall, Ireland is an incredibly safe place to visit, but no country is without scumbags. As long as you keep a level head, and be aware of your surroundings, you’ll be fine.

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Thomas Cleary

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