Gardai urge public to remain vigilant after rural communities fear properties are being 'marked' by burglars
Gardai are urging the public to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious as communities fear their properties are being marked as targets for burglaries.
A rural community have set up a 24-hour neighbourhood watch after a series of break-ins, where farmers in particular were targeted.
Locals in Clonaslee, Co Laois believe farmer’s homes are being targeted with stones and markings, to alert burglars of 'valuable properties to be hit'.
Local Joey Dempsey told Independent.ie that houses in the area have seen "mysterious" markings outside homes before they were targeted by burglars.
"It’s been an issue down here in Clonaslee where we have had a spate of break-ins. There was so much concern in the local community that there is now a volunteer nightly patrol, seven nights a week.
"Burglars are going one step further, creating stone mounds or markings with stones outside properties to be hit. It’s shocking that these people seem to have inside knowledge of properties and more disturbingly their occupants."
A local farmer in Clonaslee, Joe Reilly told Independent.ie that farmers in the area are being robbed "left, right and centre".
"They were targeting farmers who were on their own and stealing their machinery. I believe the markings were used to later target houses."
Local businessman Paul Downey said that burglars have been seen on CCTV outside properties that have been hit.
"We saw two lads on CCTV going around the neighbourhood every night between 12am to 4am. I think it’s legitimate that the houses were marked and then targeted."
Brendan Kelly set up the neighbourhood watch in the nearby town of Killoughy, Co Offaly after a number of robberies.
"We set up the neighbourhood watch two years ago when we noticed a lot of break-ins in the area.
"We called the gardai numerous times but it kept happening so we decided to take things into our own hands."
Mr Kelly said that farmers were regularly being targeted and machinery was stolen.
"We have a team of about 42 people and every night somebody is on watch. It seems to be working because the burglaries have declined."
A garda spokesperson told Independent.ie that the public should remain vigilant at all times.
"It is difficult to categorically say that markings are used to identify a target house, our advice for the public is to always remain vigilant and properly lock up and secure their properties. Be involved in neighbourhood watch and text alert schemes.
"If you become suspicious of any aspect contact your local gardai."
Earlier this week, locals in the Ballybrack and Shankill area, Co Dublin became concerned after spotting distinct markings outside their homes.
One image of a chalk marking in the Dublin locality shared by a local showed three X's in a row, which according to a key suggests 'three good targets in a row'.
Local Fianna Fáil activist Vinny Durán-Kearns said similar markings have been used to target homes in the Dun Laoghaire- Rathdown area.
"Burglars have used similar markings to target houses in the area. We have a guide of what they might mean to keep locals updated," he told Independent.ie.
"The fact that it was in chalk means it's not the council but that doesn't rule out a child just drawing on the ground.
"However, these markings have turned up before in areas prone to burglaries."
Mr Durán- Kearns said that crime is a huge concern to locals.
"We're always on alert, but at least people are aware of these markings so as they can remain vigilant."
Another local expressed concern saying "keep eye out if reappears. It does seem dodgy".
Another said: "I've seen a few signs like this and sometimes it can be houses marked for break ins or if the house has a dog."
The Dunlaoghaire- Rathdown council confirmed to Independent.ie that the council would never use chalk for road markings.
"The Council's Roads Maintenance staff usually use spray paint to mark up a road," a spokesperson said.
"This is because chalk will wash off with rain and spray paint, although temporary, will last a bit longer.
"The type of chalk markings in the photos are not created by council staff on council business."