THE 300 most prolific burglars in the State are being targeted by gardai in a major bid to curb a significant rise in residential and commercial break-ins across the nation.
Garda management have ordered senior officers in each of the 29 divisions to focus on the prime suspects in their areas and feed the intelligence gathered back to a co-ordinating centre.
And already the operation, codenamed Fiacla, is notching up a string of captures and criminal charges.
A range of garda units are banding together to track and intercept travelling gangs, who are responsible for a large proportion of the burglaries.
In Dublin, more than half of the top tier of 60 suspects have been brought before the courts and remanded in custody since gardai in the capital began their targeted operation two months ago.
Another 40 suspects have now been added to the list for surveillance and intelligence gathering.
The crackdown in Dublin has resulted in a double-digit decrease in burglaries since February, while other regions are also showing positive results.
Gardai are making a concerted effort to ensure that a suspect charged with multiple crimes will be prosecuted for all of them in one court sitting to allow the judge to form an overall view.
This is being achieved by appointing special investigation officers to case-manage each targeted figure and compile a comprehensive file against him or her.
The measure also results in strengthening the hand of the gardai in objecting to court bail.
An analysis of the results so far show that many of the burglaries are being carried out by recidivist offenders, some of whom are on bail or have failed to abide by the terms of temporary release from prison.
Senior officers have identified burglary "blackspots" in each division and the results are being sent to garda analysts to establish trends and patterns of different gangs.
Operation Fiacla swung into action as the latest burglary figures showed a nationwide rise of 22pc over a three-month period.
Gardai believe the big drop in crimes in recent weeks is primarily a result of the detections they have achieved.
A large number of the travelling gangs are based in Dublin, with those in Tallaght on the southside moving out to commuter counties like Wicklow, Kildare and Carlow and as far south as Tipperary and Cork.
Other gangs in Ballyfermot and Blanchardstown are carrying out crime sprees in Meath, Westmeath, Longford and Louth and also spreading their activities to the west while at least two cross-border gangs are being targeted with the assistance of the PSNI.
Fiacla, which is being co-ordinated by Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, head of the national support services, is an umbrella for regional operations, Acer in Dublin, Laidir in the South East, Aimsear in the West, Bliain in the South, Airgead in the North and Obair in the East.
The travelling gangs use high-powered cars, which are stashed usually in private apartment complexes and housing estates, and taken out at night for a series of burglaries.
A senior officer told the Irish Independent last night : "These are particularly violent criminals. They routinely use violence against their victims."
Significant arrests over the past month have been carried out in connection with burglaries in the Roscommon, Leitrim, Cavan, Kerry, Meath, Mayo and Kilkenny divisions as well as the Donnybrook area of south Dublin.
Apart from the full range of specialist units in the force, the garda traffic corps is playing a big part and officers say that targets should not be able to travel from Dublin to Cork without being detected either on the ground or from the garda helicopter.