Garda blitz on border gangs brings fall off in number of burglaries
GARDAI have stopped and searched hundreds of cars and questioned suspects in a crackdown on border criminal gangs, the Irish Independent has learned.
The operation was a response to an unprecedented number of aggravated burglaries.
More than 30 homes were targeted in Co Donegal in the space of just three weeks by travelling burglars.
The crime gangs behind the incidents are from England and Dublin and have used lax border security to use the North as an escape route.
Among those hurt in January's raids was 96-year-old widow Greta Lily. She was punched when burglars broke into her home in Buncrana.
Less than a week later the gangs raided eight homes in just three hours, stealing a wedding ring belonging to widow Jean Gillen during one of the incidents in Raphoe.
Burglars also targeted pensioner Phyllis McGee in Pettigo for the second time in as many months as well as elderly brothers Jim and Eric Steele in Manorcunningham, also burgled several times.
However, the Irish Independent has now learned gardai launched a massive operation to thwart the gangs, which has led to the lull in their activities.
Hundreds of vehicles were stopped and searched along the rural country roads between Donegal and Derry and further south between Donegal and Fermanagh.
They have identified more than a dozen suspects from travelling criminal gangs.
In one operation three suspects were detained when gardai believed they were about to launch another aggravated burglary spree. They had to be released without charge, but not before valuable intelligence was obtained.
Gardai and the PSNI have been liaising in theongoing investigation.
"There are two gangs working together," one security source told the Irish Independent.
While some of the recent burglaries in the north west were carried out by locally based criminals, the so-called 'burglary sprees' were the work of these gangs.
"Gardai invested thousands of man hours in the border patrols and gleaned an enormous amount of intelligence," said the security source.
"The gang members know that gardai know who they are. However, it must be stressed that by their very nature, these travelling crime gangs could launch a new series of burglaries at any time.
"They may not necessarily target Donegal the next time."