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Burglars targeting city ghost estates

CRIMINALS are targeting unoccupied buildings and houses with a huge surge in attempted break-ins, a security expert said today.

Many houses and premises, including some in so-called ghost estates are untenanted and attracting criminals in pursuit of easy money.

Protection specialist Netwatch said that it had recorded a 35pc hike in attempted break-ins at the unoccupied premises it protects, compared to its 2009 figures.

"The eyes of the street that typically act as a deterrent to criminals don't exist in empty premises or estates so the opportunity to engage in criminal activity is heightened," David Walsh of Netwatch said.

"Vacant properties are often readily accessible and criminals can engage in activity without detection."


Criminal activity ranges from stealing materials from completed housing units to criminal damage, loitering and drug-taking.

There is also a positive correlation between the lengths of time a premises lies empty and incidences of criminal activity, Netwatch said.

"Due to the economic downturn, there are ever increasing numbers of unoccupied buildings, "Mr Walsh said.

"We're now monitoring over 60pc more unoccupied premises than we were three years ago. Criminal activity increases in times of economic hardshp, so it's feasible to assume that we'll continue to see increased vandalism and thefts from these premises over the next few years.


"It's critical that local authorities, building owners or other relevant bodies put appropriate systems in place now to stop the degeneration and ghettoisation of certain areas."

Irish criminals are becoming "ever more industrious" and as they become more desperate, and burglar alams and static CCTV systems are now less of a deterrent than they were in the past, the Netwatch chief executive believes.

"We carried out a survey recently and despite the fact that more than 63pc of respondents had burglar alarms installed and 60pc had CCTV cameras in place, they're still being targeted on a regular basis by criminals."

The focus has to be retrained on preventing criminal activity, Mr Walsh said.

"In the current climate, property owners cannot take an ad hoc approach to their security provisions," he said.