Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Gardai warn of rise in thefts but offer no leeway on drink driving

John Shirley

Our county IFA executive met some gardai for a Christmas/New Year exchange of news and views. The exchanges went like this:

How is the crime situation in rural areas?

Drink driving activity is down but theft is on the increase. Diesel, trailers, scrap metal and livestock are the main targets. Raids on diesel tanks have become endemic and the colour of the diesel doesn't matter. We've a good idea who is doing it but we need to catch them in the act to get a prosecution. Locking the lid or the valve of the tank is not a protection. The latest trend is that the diesel robbers just puncture the tank, fill what containers they have and let the rest drain away down the yard or wherever.

If you cannot have your diesel tank in a locked-up shed, then at least have a sensor light on it or have a dog housed beside it.

What can we do to protect our trailers, vehicles and livestock?

Ifor Williams trailers and horse boxes are a favourite target. We are often frustrated in that we recover a stolen trailer but the real owner cannot give proof that will stand up in court. Certainly, record the chassis number of any trailers. Even though the thieves are now grinding out the chassis numbers, we may still be able to read them forensically. Also you should put a special mark such as a spot weld hidden on the trailer. If your vehicle is found, the law will accept this as proof of ownership. Even though the person who bought and paid for the stolen item in good faith, he or she will be at the loss of the money.

We find that cars and jeeps are now being stolen to order. The thieves are going to great lengths, breaking into houses etc, to get the keys. They have even fished the keys out through letter boxes. Our advice is to bring the keys up to your bedroom for the night-time.

A lot of the stolen trailers and vehicles are being advertised on We keep a watch on that website for suspicious ads. We had a case recently in the county where a buyer handed over €22,000 in cash for a flashy but stolen jeep that had been replated with the same number as another vehicle in Limerick. An alert went out on the stolen jeep when the person in Limerick started to get M50 toll changes on his genuine vehicle even though it never left Limerick.

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Protecting livestock is a major issue, with cattle being stolen as well as sheep. Locks on gates are definitely a help but now the thieves are cutting chains with cordless angle grinders.

Where is the market for the stolen goods?

Many of the stolen smaller items, such as welders, chainsaws, compressors etc, can be seen at car boot sales. Also they can be hawked around from door to door. Buying these bargain items only feeds the crime monster. If a complete stranger comes to your door with a bargain in the back of the van, send him packing.

Our advice is the same for people calling to buy scrap. Run them. Once these people get to see round your farmyard they will case the place and will likely come back when you are not there. Even if you do catch them they will have a ready and almost plausible explanation on the tip of the tongue.

How far can I go in using a legally held shotgun to protect myself and family?

You can use reasonable force in protecting your house and person but if you use the gun you must be able to prove in court that you had to do it as there was a threat to your life. Once the intruder is off your property you cannot give chase. New legislation in the pipeline will strengthen the position of the property owner.

The drink driving laws are killing social activity in rural Ireland and closing rural pubs. Please comment. Are the Go Safe speed traps revenue earners?

Our job is to police the rules. We have seen a major reduction in drunk driving as drivers act more responsibly. The biggest threat from the breathalyser is on the morning and even the afternoon after a night's drinking. The new breath-test machines are more sensitive.

Under new legislation that has just come into force there is a grading of penalties, from fines and penalty points rising to ever longer driving bans.

One owner of a remote pub on the Carlow/Wicklow border arranges to have his customers collected and delivered home as a counter to the drink driving laws.

The Go Safe speed camera vans operate to a set schedule. In practice, they may allow a tolerance of up to 9km/hr before issuing the fine and penalty points. Yes, I would agree that they are good revenue earners.

I called to see an isolated elderly neighbour as he wasn't answering his phone. I found him sitting frightened in the dark. He was being hounded by unsolicited calls including phone calls. He feels helpless in the face of this intimidation.

Please give us that person's details and we will call to give him reassurance. We are trying to gather a register of elderly people in both rural and urban areas not only to offer them community policing security but also to know their whereabouts in the event of bad weather or snow.

If you look after an elderly neighbour or relative and are going off for a few days, give us a shout and we will drop in while you are away.

Regretfully we are losing our patrol cars as they hit 300,000km and there is a ban on fleet renewal for all of 2012.

A happy and safe new year to all.

Indo Farming