News Crime

Saturday 19 January 2019

'Wild, dangerous, disgraceful' - Gardaí telling tool theft victims to 'go to markets' generates angry reaction

Tools seized by gardai in the last five months (left) and a van which was damaged by thieves (right) Photos: An Garda Siochana and Locktec Locksmiths
Tools seized by gardai in the last five months (left) and a van which was damaged by thieves (right) Photos: An Garda Siochana and Locktec Locksmiths Newsdesk Newsdesk

Tradesmen who've had thousands of euro worth of tools stolen have revealed how gardaí advised them to go to public markets to try and retrieve their property.

Tool thefts have become an increasing problem, with the level of thefts forcing some people out of business.

An undercover investigation by RTÉ's Prime Time broadcast last night showed how tools bought at a market in Balbriggan, north county Dublin, had previously been reported stolen in the UK.

Gardaí advising tradesmen to go to these markets to try and identify their property generated an angry reaction with viewers, who described it as "potentially dangerous", "wild" and "disgraceful".

"They [gardaí] told me to go to the market and that's where your tools will be. It's not up to me to go to the market. That's his job, not my job," one business owner told Prime Time. 

John O'Driscoll, assistant Commissioner with Special Crime Operations said it was a "sensible approach" for people to go to markets.

"Markets are places where we are aware that property is being sold. Clearly, once we present ourselves at particular locations the likelihood of stolen goods being produced is less likely. We are on a continuous basis targeting tools of this nature.

"To go to a market and identify property that you believe is rightly yours, that is certainly a sensible approach.

"Markets take place all over the country and it involves people setting up stalls. There doesn't need to be any difficult interaction in identifying property. If somebody sees property in an open market that is theirs, I think it is common sense that they contact gardai."

Christy Swanick was staying in a hotel in the Tyrrelstown area in west Dublin and had €60,000 worth of tools and equipment taken from his van.

Mr Swanick, a self-employed man who works in the refrigeration business, called on people to stop buying tools at markets.

"People need to realise they could be walking around with someone's livelihood," he said.

One self-employed roofer, based in Ballymun, previously told how equipment worth over €4,000 was taken from his van while he worked.

He received a tip-off that his tools would be on sale at the Balbriggan market and bought them back for €1,500 the following weekend.

"I would have had to pay €4,000 to replace them anyway, so I just bought them back. It's ridiculous what is going on and there's not much we can do as these people know where you live. It's not worth the risk to do or say anything."

Gardai last night arrested three men following a burglary at a building site in Wicklow.

A number of stolen tools were recovered.

The three men, aged 19, 34 and 43, are being detained at Bray garda station.

John Kinsella, managing director of Accura Security Products Limited, offered the following security advice for tradesmen:

  • Avoid vehicles with glass at the back doors and ensure that your vehicle has a fixed metal partition between the driver and cargo area.
  • If you are attending a site or premises to carry out work be mindful to check on the vehicle on a regular but not routine basis.
  • Install a vehicle CCTV system/alarm internally which can report intrusion directly to your smartphone.
  • When on Facebook stop telling everyone where you are if you are a target, think practical.
  • When your commercial vehicle is parked at home etc. ensure that rear and side doors are visible to you from within the house.
  • In the event of an intrusion/ attempt on your vehicle DO NOT attempt to tackle the criminals, call the gardaí and make plenty of noise and turn on lights and set off your intruder alarm.
  • Consider a monitored solution, whilst expensive please note that monitoring stations never sleep.
  • Photograph and mark all tools with your own particular codes and keep a note of this for future reference or for gardaí.

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