The number of calls made to an Garda Síochána (AGS) about incidents of domestic abuse increased by 17% to 43,500 last year, according to its annual report.
The report shows that gardaí made a total of 22,795 contacts, and attempted contacts, with victims of domestic abuse last year as part of Operation Faoiseamh.
The operation was a response to the increase in calls about domestic abuse received by the force during COVID-19 restrictions. It was directly linked to 217 prosecutions taken last year, according to the report.
The 2020 figures show that the number of criminal charges linked to breaches of Domestic Violence Act orders last year increased by 24% – to more than 4,000.
There were also more than 7,600 criminal charges for crimes involving an element of domestic abuse – also up 24% from 2019.
Policing in the pandemic
The report gives a breakdown of proceedings started for breaches of public-health regulations during the pandemic. Gardaí began 257 proceedings for breaches of travel restrictions during the initial lockdown period, with 68 of these now with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
There were 155 proceedings started against licensed premises, with 74 going to the DPP. The report shows a relatively low number for breaches of the rules on face coverings and passenger locator forms – eight and four proceedings respectively.
The report reveals that 248 spitting incidents against gardaí were recorded last year, while anti-spit guards were used in 122 incidents.
AGS defended its use of the equipment, describing anti-spit guards as “a lawful use of force” that were used only as a last resort.
The report shows that the number of gardaí last year reached a record level of 14,491.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that the force would continue to learn lessons from its experience of policing during the pandemic.
Writing in the report, he described it as “very heartening” to see several independent surveys finding high levels of public confidence, support and trust in how the force operated during COVID-19 restrictions last year.
Crime rates fell
The commissioner said that the pandemic had shown the importance of building on what he called “our strengthened relationship” with the community, and the high value that people placed on visibility of gardaí in their local community.
He pointed out that, while crime rates did fall across most areas, criminals still sought to exploit the pandemic. While residential burglaries have dropped by more than 40% over the past five years, drugs worth almost €37 million were seized last year.
The commissioner also pledged to work with road-safety authorities and the public to reduce road deaths, which increased again in 2020 despite a big drop in traffic levels.