New breed of burglars: volatile and dangerous
Two families behind large number of rural raids, writes Paul Williams
The seven men jailed for the horrific home invasion in Co Tipperary were part of a wider network of family-based gangs who specialise in rural crime.
The gang responsible for what a judge described as a catastrophic attack on the home of the Corcoran family were a mix of individuals from the Traveller and settled communities in Coolock, north Dublin.
They had been suspected of carrying out dozens of robberies, until their capture by gardaí shortly after they terrorised Mark and Emma Corcoran and their three children in November 2013.
Gardaí say that they were all extremely volatile and dangerous - typical of the young gangs carrying out these robberies.
Intelligence sources believe that two extended families are responsible for a "significant proportion" of burglaries and robberies.
Both families - one is based in Tallaght and the other in Co Kildare - have a history of involvement in crime going back two generations.
It is estimated a hardcore of 40 young men in their teens and 20s are involved.
The Tallaght-based family is led by a notorious gangster in his late forties who has been involved in serious crime since his teens.
In the early 2000s, he was the leader of a mob dubbed the "Subaru gang" after his car of choice for robberies. Several members of the gang including the leader were caught and served time.
The gang's typical modus operandi involves a crew of four - three will enter the property while the fourth, the driver, remains in the car and keeps watch.
Gardaí say that they have been known to use high-tech electronic devices to jam mobile phone systems which carry alarm signals.
One source revealed: "On several occasions, gang members have openly challenged the gardaí when they arrived on the scene. They show no fear and they have broken up cars and threatened to kill.
"Then they get in their cars and speed off and we have no chance of catching them. On a few occasions, they have driven off and then stopped to threaten the pursuing squad cars.
"Mostly this crowd are looking for jewellery, gold, cash and safes which they sell off through a network of shops. But they also break into shops and business premises, often cleaning the place out."
It is understood that the Tallaght-based gang buy high-powered cars on websites like Donedeal and fit them with false registration plates, using up to three different numbers on an average night.
The Kildare crime family are the prime suspects for burglaries in practically all of the 32 counties. Sources say they use a number of illegal halting sites to store stolen goods, cars and weapons.
Despite the fact that several of their members are either in prison or before the courts, the gang are still very active. Female members take an active role in burglaries.
Both gangs use the high powered cars to out-run gardaí: "A number of times members have lost them because they turn off their lights and speed off on country roads at 100mph using night goggles."
However two operations set up by gardaí to tackle burglary gangs - Operations Acer and Fiacla - have recorded impressive results with more than 5,000 arrests made and over 3,000 criminal prosecutions so far.
In 2012, a specialist anti-robbery unit was established from within the Garda National Support Services (NSS) under the command of Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne. The squad is armed and has a fleet of high-powered cars to carry out nightly patrols along the motorway system. Sources say Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan is planning to deploy more resources to the crackdown on rural crime.