Gardai haul in 'fishermen' who steal car keys through letterboxes
BURGLARS have converted fishing rods to bring in bigger 'catches' on dry land.
The rods are being used by specialist gangs to 'fish' car keys from the hall tables of their victims' homes.
And despite repeated warnings from gardai to motorists to take greater care with the keys at night, business is booming for the gangs. A 20pc increase in this type of crime over the first four months of the year has prompted a crackdown by gardai on the 'fishermen'.
Our picture shows an extendable rod, which has been fitted with a light to allow the burglar look in through the letterbox of a targeted premises.
The burglar can also add on a magnetic pick-up tool, a mirror and a tray to the rod.
All of the items can be purchased legally in supermarkets or DIY stores.
In the past few weeks, gardai have recovered five of the rods after arresting a number of suspects and carrying out searches. They have focused in particular on two gangs, who operate from bases in south and east Dublin but carry out burglaries across the capital and in the surrounding commuter counties.
A significant portion of the vehicles stolen using the fishing method to collect the keys have subsequently been used in other crimes.
Gardai said the two main gangs have up to 10 members but regularly change associates during crime sprees.
The fishing gangs have stolen 60 vehicles using the converted rods since the start of the year, up from 50 in the corresponding period last year, with January and March being the worst months for householders.
The clampdown on the gangs is being co-ordinated under Operation Acer, which was set up a year ago to combat burglaries in the greater Dublin region and is being led by Assistant Commissioner John Twomey, who is in charge of policing in the capital.
Acer is now beginning to have a major impact, with the use of advanced mapping techniques to identify and patrol residential burglary hotspots.
The move has resulted in a 30pc reduction in burglaries in the city for the first quarter of the year and a decrease of 14pc since April 2012.
Mr Twomey told the Irish Independent that gardai would continue to use advanced methods to target the burglars, but he also called on the public to play their part by taking heed of the crime prevention advice offered.
As a result of studies of burglary patterns by garda analysts, officers patrolling the streets and housing estates in Dublin managed to prevent the anticipated 'spike' of burglaries during the winter months.
Over the past few years, burglars have been taking advantage of longer hours of darkness to become more active, leading to an average rise of 20pc in break-ins during those months.
But this time the increase did not materialise as patrols were sent into areas where burglaries were predicted and concentrated on the danger times of 5pm to 10pm. Gardai are now trying to achieve similar results for the rest of the year.
In the meantime, gardai are advising motorists to keep their keys secure and out of sight – well away from windows and doors – particularly overnight.