A recent “surge” in online scams has led to digital crime accounting for a quarter of all offences experienced by members of the public, according to new data released by An Garda Síochána.
An online survey found that 26 per cent of respondents who had experienced crime said they had fallen foul of some form of digital fraud.
“The high number of online fraud victims in this survey mirrors the sharp increase in this crime during the Covid-19 pandemic when increased targeting of victims through online platforms saw a surge in scams,” gardaí said.
One in five of those who took part in the research said they had been the victim of some form of crime. Gardaí described this as a “much higher victimisation rate than is typically found” nationally, reflecting the opt-in nature of online surveys.
Unable to carry out normal research fieldwork in 2020 due to the pandemic, An Garda Síochána commissioned Amárach Research to conduct online polling.
A full public attitudes survey resumed in 2021, the findings of which are due to be published by October.
In its online alternative, 6,000 adults and a comparatively smaller sample of younger people gave their views on crime and policing over a four-month period to the end of 2020.
While online fraud was a major factor, it was the crime type least reported to gardaí by victims, at 26 per cent. By comparison, 87 per cent of car thefts were reported.
In terms of interaction with members of the force, just over half of crime victims were satisfied with how their case was handled
The survey found female respondents reported a greater level of concern about their welfare or that of someone they live with. Younger people between the ages of 18 and 24 were more likely to worry about personal injury.
Sexual offences and human trafficking were the top two policing priorities identified during 2020, followed by robberies, illegal weapons, assaults and drugs offences.
In terms of interaction with members of the force, just over half of crime victims (53 per cent) were satisfied with how their case was handled. However, a similar proportion were dissatisfied with the level of information they received regarding their case.
Gardaí said that while letters are sent to victims, there were plans to introduce additional digital and interactive channels of communication to keep victims informed.
The public is more likely to be concerned about national crime (66 per cent believing this to be a serious or very serious issue) compared with local crime (15 per cent).
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said he was pleased with high levels of public trust in his force.
“This online survey highlights areas of concern and where An Garda Síochána can improve,” he said. “We have already started to address some of these and further improvements to how we provide our service will be made over the coming year.”
The data showed that 61 per cent or those who reported crimes felt gardaí responded quickly.
In other areas, gardaí scored highly, with levels of trust, respect, helpfulness and friendliness all scoring between 81 and 86 per cent.