Garda alert as gang learn to bypass alarms
Thieves using sophisticated equipment to carry out hundreds of 'low-value' robberies
Gardai are warning business owners to be vigilant as a Dublin-based gang has perfected ways of disabling almost every alarm in the country.
The gang, including members of the Travelling community based in west Dublin, has carried out at least 10 robberies in Co Roscommon and Co Sligo in the past month and possibly hundreds around the country in the past year.
The robberies generally involve the theft of relatively small amounts of cash and other items, mainly cigarettes.
Gardai say the gang is keeping this "low value-high volume" operating method because if caught there is almost no chance of receiving a custodial sentence.
The gang struck the Topaz service station at Racecourse Road in Roscommon in the early hours of March 25, disabling the alarm system and breaking in through a back door. Gardai later recovered a stolen builder's trailer with the ladder used to get access to the alarm along with a quantity of cigarettes the gang had apparently forgotten.
The same gang, using the same techniques, hit Cullen's filling station in Lanesboro, Co Longford, the following night. They escaped with a quantity of cash and cigarettes. Again the same gang is believed to have stolen cigarettes from three filling stations in Sligo last November on one night. They also forced their way into the parochial house at Gurteen, pushed past Fr John Doherty and ransacked the house looking for cash. The night before they raided two shops in north Sligo, again disabling alarms.
Gardai say they had "sophisticated equipment" for disabling the alarms. The gang has received advice from someone with technical competence and are using an electronic signal-blocker.
First they block the signal from the alarm to the monitoring station, then they break the case on the outside of the building which contains the noise alarm, then they break in. Recently, they have taken to filling the casing of the outside alarm with foam void filler as simply breaking it with a hammer sometimes doesn't work.
An electronic signal blocker was found on top of the Centra shopping centre in Portarlington, Co Laois, in February after the gang was apparently disturbed and abandoned it.
When it was found the next day gardai called the Army's bomb squad fearing it was some kind of bomb. The signal blockers are available on the internet for prices from $200-$500 (€150-€370).
The gang is highly organised with one section used to steal cars, often breaking into homes in rural areas, grabbing keys and escaping. They target owners of new or high-speed cars, which are then stored for use in robberies of commercial targets.
Gardai say the gang actively avoids targeting potentially high-end business targets to avoid the risk of imprisonment if caught. The typical haul is usually under €10,000.
Members are well aware that they are unlikely to receive a custodial sentence for such amounts, claiming in defence that it is a first offence and that they are unemployed and poor.
Gardai also say that members of the Travelling community who receive custodial sentences tend to be treated leniently, being sent to Castlerea semi-open prison in Co Mayo and then transferred to Loughan House open prison in Co Cavan, from which they often abscond.