The number of knives seized each year by An Garda Síochána has almost doubled over the course of seven years with about 2,000 now being impounded annually, according to data disclosed by the Department of Justice.
The trends show a 90 per cent increase from 2016 when 1,203 were confiscated. A total of 2,146 knives were taken from people by gardaí last year.
The figures were contained in a parliamentary reply given by Minister for Justice Simon Harris.
The sharpest rise was in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) where annual seizures rose from 547 to 905 during that period. However, there are variations within the capital with the southern DMR showing a fall of 17 per cent during the same seven-year period.
The figures in recent years have been consistently high with last year’s seizures only slightly up on 2019, but with a more substantial increase over 2020 and 20201 when there were long periods of lockdown due to Covid-19.
There have also been sharp increase in seizures of weapons in urban areas and some commuter counties, including Galway, Louth (which moved from 47 in 2016 to 164 last year), Cork city and Laois-Offaly.
The figures for Limerick and Waterford are low. Limerick had 102 seizures in 2017 but the figure fell to 74 last year.
A number of reasons have been posited for the phenomenon of rising knife seizures, including the growing practice of knife-carrying among young males.
The number of seizures is consistent with the annual figures produced by gardaí on assaults with offensive weapons, which are also running at about 2,000 each year.
Another reason attributed to the rise is an administrative improvement, with better recording by the Garda of weapons seized. In 2016, the force began using a new property and exhibit management system that has more accurately itemised weapons confiscated.
A department spokesman said the 2016 to 2018 increase in recorded knife seizures was due in large part to the introduction of the property and exhibit management system which improved the recording of all objects seized, including knives.
“More recently, the increases in seizures are also due to proactive policing operations such as Operation Soteria, the national Garda assault reduction operation as well as during 2020 with the increased Garda presence due to Covid-19 for Operation Fanacht,” said the spokesman.
The maximum penalty in the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990 for a conviction for possessing a knife in a public place without good reason or lawful authority was increased from one to five years in an amendment introduced via the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009.
The issue of knife crime has also been examined by a subgroup of the antisocial behaviour forum established and chaired by Minister of State in the Department of Justice James Browne.
Sinn Féin justice spokesman Martin Kenny said the increase in knife seizures was a worrying trend.
“While it does demonstrate the hard work of gardaí on the frontline who are detecting those carrying knives, it also displays the way in which carrying a knife is becoming more commonplace which is deeply concerning Knife crime has a deeply traumatising effect on the victim and their families and we have also seen a rise in the number of stabbings resulting in life-changing injuries and fatalities,” he said.
He said more gardaí were needed to be available in the communities where knife possessions were high. “Those resources can only be deployed with the recruitment of additional gardaí and the retention of current members,” he said.