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Why should I have bothered to report my home break-in?

As a Dubliner I live in the crime capital of the country. The city has a crime rate 50pc above the national average.

Then I have to add in the fact that I live in the north inner city, in a community which has been deprived of resources, where regeneration has been halted and where drug crime is a regular occurrence. So I can probably double that statistic.

No wonder I feel nervous walking the neighbourhood after dark. But, according to the latest CSO statistics, serious crime is actually decreasing, as are assaults causing harm, attempted burglaries and related offences.

"You're imagining it," my husband said when I argued that the local streets had become increasingly more dangerous, that neighbour's reports of robberies and assaults had increased.

"Your experience is not compatible with the evidence which clearly shows that crime [apart from sexual assaults] has dropped. Or else you're a crime magnet". Perhaps I am.

Over the years living here I've had quite a few dealings with the local gardai and detectives - the vast majority of whom have been overwhelmingly positive.

Perhaps I'm naive, but I was brought up to believe that the gardai are the "good guys", that they don't cut corners and that they always do the honourable thing. I mean, if you can't trust the guards, then who do you trust?

scuffling

We called the gardai first when we'd only been living in the neighbourhood a couple of years. I had woken up one night to see a hand coming through the window beside the bed, trying to grapple the inside lock.

I'm presuming it was the noise of the two blokes, dressed head to toe in black, scuffling on the roof outside that woke me.

I roared, my husband woke, grabbed a bar bell from under the bed and ran downstairs and out to the back garden to confront them. Thankfully, they had scarpered over the back wall by then.

I say "thankfully" because I'd heard far too many stories of brave people confronting burglars or assailants and ending up the worse for wear.

Back in the house, we called the guards, who arrived pretty promptly. There had been a spate of robberies recently in the neighbourhood and they were desperate to find out who was behind them, they said.

They brought in people who dusted the windowpane - both inside and outside - for fingerprints. Just like in CSI.

And yes, I was dead impressed by all this. It meant that they were taking this attempted crime seriously, that innocent people being able to sleep in their beds at night without fear, was a matter of concern to them.

But today, after the release of the Garda Inspectorate Report, I'm wondering should we have bothered?

Did it make any difference? Or was our reported "attempted burglary" downgraded on Pulse into a "non-crime" category because the thieves had been interrupted before they could steal anything or hurt anybody?

Was it entered into the Pulse system at all? Who knows?

Another time, I was mugged in front of my two children and my phone stolen. Two guards called to my house and were kindness itself, making sure we were okay after the incident. Now, I have to wonder were they just making soothing noises?

trust

The Garda Inspectorate report has made me think twice about every encounter I've had with the guards over the decade or so. And, after this report, this is the real nub of the problem.

Can we still trust the Gardai? What woman living with an abusive partner will feel confident enough of a positive response if they pick up the phone (a dangerous action in itself) and call the guards?

What victim of rape or parent of a sexually assaulted child will risk inexperienced guards being assigned to their cases?

The one positive thing about the report's revelations is that they are now out in the open. They cannot be ignored.

Interim Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has said that there will be a "vigorous programme of renewal to provide better than 21st century policing".

That's a good sign. And those who can't or won't accept change need to go as soon as possible.


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