Criminal gangs selling goods to farmers, then stealing them again
Crime gangs are targeting farmers in a racket in which stolen machinery is sold on - only to be stolen again, from its new owner, a short time later.
Typically, such criminals will advertise stolen property, such as a trailer, and sell it second-hand for cash to an unsuspecting buyer. The transaction often takes place at the buyer's home or somewhere that the criminal won't be seen.
However, the buyer will typically find the newly bought item stolen a couple of weeks later - usually by the seller themselves, according to Colin Connolly, a former garda who is now the Rural Crime Prevention Executive for the Irish Farmers Association, (IFA),
He warned that a failure by rural-dwellers to take more responsibility for their goods is driving a cycle of criminal activity. People need to be more proactive in protecting their valuables, he said.
Yet many victims of rural crime are still not reporting thefts because they believe the goods won't be recovered or that they aren't doing enough to prevent burglaries in the first place.
"A lot of these people are people who still leave their keys in the door," he said.
However, such thinking is playing into the hands of organised criminals operating in rural areas across Ireland, who are not only burgling rural properties, but selling the stolen goods on over and over again.
Mr Connolly pointed out initiatives, such as the IFA's free Theft Stop. Users simply register with the Theft Stop database at www.theftstop.ie and are given an ID number which they can stencil or punch with a metal puncher onto their equipment or property.
Anyone looking to buy second-hand equipment or valuables can also check on the website to see whether it has been stolen before being duped by the "seller".
However, in many cases, farmers and other rural dwellers are failing to take such simple steps to avoid being victims of crime.
He said the recent discovery of a cache of valuable goods stolen during burglaries in counties Meath and Westmeath was an encouraging sign.
The stolen goods were all recovered during a raid on a house in Oldcastle, Co Meath as part of Operation Thor.
They included a 2015 Audi A5, a 2010 Audi A4 Estate, a rigid inflatable boat and motor and three ride-on lawnmowers.
These are indicative of the kind of high-value, resellable goods that organised criminals are targeting from rural homes and businesses, he said.
"It represents right across the board the stuff that's being taken," he said.
"To me, this is an encouraging sign. They're breaking the link in the chain."
In the meantime, Mr Connolly is urging farmers who are buying new machines or expensive equipment to be discreet when making or discussing such purchases. He is also trying to discourage people from buying such goods from the second-hand market.
More than 2,500 agricultural crimes were reported in the first six months of 2014, according to statistics from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The bulk of crimes involved 1,720 thefts of farm machinery alone. But the theft of tools and even livestock is on the rise, as is that of farm machinery that is being stolen to order.