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Burglary gang snared by rural text alert scheme

A DUBLIN crime gang was snared with the help of a new text-alert scheme that has halved burglaries in a rural area.

The new community texting scheme may yet be the key to cutting crime across Ireland.

The arrest of the three-man gang was achieved after hundreds of householders received texted descriptions of a car used by suspected burglars travelling through their region following break-ins in Leitrim and Cavan.

Residents in the Aughnacliffe and Dromard parishes in North Longford played a pivotal role in a garda operation to nab members of the gang based in Tallaght and Co Kildare.

Nine garda patrol cars from surrounding areas and the garda helicopter were involved in the search with gardai in Granard, Co Longford, playing a central role.

Community alert volunteers sent text messages to hundreds of people who ensured the movements of the gang's car was tracked until it was abandoned by the occupants.


The gang then set off on foot across the countryside as text alerts continued to be sent to ensure the fugitives were cornered and arrested by gardai. A quantity of stolen goods, including jewellery, was recovered.

Granard based Superintendent Ian Lackey and Sergeant Lionel Mullally were instrumental in setting up the local text alert scheme which is the first of its kind in Ireland to achieve dramatic success. Supt Lackey recently briefed Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and other top level gardai about implementing the scheme.

Sgt Mullally told the Herald that representatives from community alert schemes from many parts of Ireland have been in contact with the North Longford garda team in a bid to introduce the scheme into their own areas.

"Burglaries have fallen by almost 50pc where the scheme is operating in contrast to other regions where the numbers of burglaries have increased," said Sgt Mullally.

A key factor in the scheme's success has been in enabling Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators themselves to send out text alerts to communities regarding reports of suspicious vehicles and individuals.

The vast majority of break-ins in the region were carried out by gangs and criminals from the great Dublin area. A community with an effective alert system can respond successfully to these threats, he said.

The arrest of the three men was due in part to the Crime Prevention Mobile Text Alert Service. Some 16 arrests have been made in the region in recent months because of community involvement. The system is suitable for other rural areas and could be adapted to involve communities in Dublin and other cities, he added.