Travelling gangs now carry out 16 raids in one night
Published 26/12/2015 | 02:30
The major travelling gangs are carrying out up to 16 burglaries and robberies in a single night's spree across several counties, say gardaí.
Investigating officers say the gangs work in teams and often switch vehicles while targeting their victims around the country.
One officer told the Irish Independent: "Associates of the travelling gangs are different to the small-time local burglars who might carry out two strikes in a day, usually opportunistic crimes, and remain close to their own neighbourhood.
"The travelling gangs do their homework before they set out from their bases in south and west Dublin and focus on several counties, using the national road network to make their escape.
"Their night's work would range from five up to 16 crimes," the officer added.
They concentrate mainly on robbing cash and jewellery and avoid items that could present difficulties in selling on at a later stage.
One of the major tasks facing the gardaí involved in the new anti-burglary crackdown, known as Operation Thor, is to uncover the identity of the receivers who are helping them dispose of the jewellery. Some of the stolen goods are also being sold off at greatly reduced prices in street markets, while others are channelled through shady traders.
Investigators are appealing to the public to be more careful and are also advising them to think about where they should store their more valuable pieces of jewellery.
"Many people tend to put the pieces they cherish most in an obvious place like a jewellery box in their bedroom.
"This makes it so easy for the burglars, who want to get in and out of a house quickly. The one commodity they do not have is time and generally they can't afford to hang around for a painstaking search of the house to locate the cash or jewels.
"We want people to store their valuable belongings in less obvious places.
"The same logic applies to leaving the keys to cars hanging in the front hallway where they can be fished out through the letterbox," the officer added.
Travelling gangs based in south Dublin use the M50 to gain easy access to homes in places such as Dún Laoghaire, Killiney and Blackrock and then head into town as far as Donnybrook or else double back out to Tallaght and travel west to Blanchardstown.
The M50 is also the primary route for the gangs for leaving the capital to focus on the commuter counties and southwards to Kilkenny, Carlow or Wexford. They also cross the Shannon to tackle potential victims in Munster and Connacht.
A number of commercial targets are hit repeatedly, usually because they cannot afford to significantly upgrade their security quickly after the initial hit.
Operation Thor will mean that co-operation and communication between the Garda regions will be quicker and more efficient. However, officers are critical of the idea of reducing the number of regions and say that rationalisation would leave the regions too big and unwieldy for operational purposes.
The Garda aim in tackling the burglars and robbers is to become more pro-active than reactive.
The traffic corps and regional support units are also playing key roles in implementing the new plans.
Officers say that many of the burglary gangs are run like family businesses, with the younger generation now taking on the tasks that were previously carried out by their parents and grandparents.
They are caught and prosecuted countless times, but up to now it has been difficult to ensure that the guilty are handed a stiff jail sentence.
Gardaí hope that their more streamlined approach and the new legislation from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will allow the courts to clamp down on the repeat offenders responsible for a large portion of property crimes.