The M7 provides burglars with quick route in and out
Published 28/11/2015 | 02:30
Located a few miles north of the M7, Portarlington is typical of the rural towns which have witnessed a rise in crime after being absorbed into the widening commuter belt during the boom.
The Crime Ireland data analysis shows that the midland town has the second highest rate of burglary in Laois.
An influx of criminals who came to live in the town to get away from police attention in Dublin resulted in the increased levels of crime, according to community activists.
Gardaí in the county say that the development of the motorway system which cuts through Laois has also been a major contributory factor.
On the ground there is a palpable sense of fear among the victims of crime in the town. All the people who spoke to the Irish Independent did so on the grounds that they would not be identified.
"There is a real fear here and that is why none of us wish to be identified - some of the people who are targeting us live here in Portarlington and all of us, including the guards, know who they are," said one man.
Ballymorris Court, a development from the Celtic Tiger era on the outskirts of the town, has been plagued by burglars in the past two years. Practically every one of the 28 homes on the Ballymorris Road have been burgled at least once, with many of them being targeted on multiple occasions.
Residents have been forced to install CCTV systems, gates and fences in a bid to stop the thieves.
"No one has been spared in this small area, with some people being robbed up to four times," one resident said.
"A lot of us have had to install CCTV systems to try and deter them but they keep coming back - it is very frustrating and upsetting.
"This problem has undermined everyone's peace of mind and there is a sense of despair that nothing can be done with these people."
One resident, who has spent €7,500 on security systems, revealed that the same three criminals had attempted to break into her home on three occasions, including in the early hours of Christmas morning.
The criminals, who are in their late teens and early 20s, are suspected of carrying out burglaries across the Midlands and have several convictions between them.
In another estate in the town, a middle-aged couple told how a daylight burglary at their home had left them fearful and anxious.
"We never thought that we would be targeted because we have nothing worth stealing - the only thing of value that they took was my engagement ring," the grandmother said. "It had a terrible effect on us and we find that we are watching everyone now to see if they are acting suspiciously."
The local golf club has also been targeted on a number of occasions. Last year, over €4,000 worth of equipment was stolen from a tool shed and, earlier this year, eight caddy cars were extensively damaged.
"We had to upgrade our CCTV system and install security gates around the club which cost over €10,000," said Tom Hainsworth, the club secretary.
"This town is a hub with easy access for gangs travelling along the motorway. We need more gardaí on the street," he said.