Operation Thor sends crime gangs to Kerry
Senior Gardaí in Dublin have admitted the success of 'Operation Thor' - their crackdown on roving burglar gangs in the midlands - has driven the criminals into Kerry and other more isolated counties located away from the national motorway network.
In a bid to avoid the ongoing Garda swoop, the mainly city-based gangs responsible for a reign of terror across the midlands are swapping the motorway network for back roads and moving their operations out of the midlands and into south Munster and Connacht.
While the motorways were used as the spine of the gangs' operations the old primary road network has now become their chosen trade route.
This move away from the motorways has seen the gangs target homes and businesses in rural parts of Kerry, Cork, Clare, Donegal, Galway and Mayo.
Kerry Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Myers said there had been a "sharp rise" in the number of burglaries in the county in the last two months.
In just the last two weeks six houses were robbed in three hours near Killarney while six homes and businesses were burgled in north Kerry. Two highly mobile gangs from Cork and Limerick are believed to be responsible.
In Ardfert two weeks ago a man aged in his 60s was held hostage for an hour an a half when a professional gang raided his home and a neighbouring business.
Senior Officers at Garda HQ in Dublin said Operation Thor has been a major success, leading to a significant decline in burglaries in its target area.
However they admitted that crime gangs operating from Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Waterford, have modified their operating tactics in direct response to Operation Thor.
The gangs are also devoting more resources to local intelligence sources - paying 'spotters' in specific areas to identify target houses for them.
The houses are marked with innocent-looking items like socks draped on gates or paint on telegraph poles to identify them to the burglar gangs.
Instead of driving high powered cars, the gangs are swapping to more nondescript vehicles and driving on back roads when they are scouting areas.
Senior Garda sources said that while Operation Thor had been a success the unfortunate side effect was that gangs - some of them violent - had switched their attention to rural areas that had previously escaped their attention.
Gardaí are also increasingly concerned at the way gangs and local 'spotters' are using social media to help identify when houses are temporarily empty or owners are away.
"We have come across cases where particular homes have been robbed and the suspicion is that it was on the clear basis of information obtained from social media postings by the family involved," a senior Garda has warned.
"People need to be very careful of what they are posting on social media about their movements."
Operation Thor - a specialist operation designed to tackle criminal burglary gangs - has resulted in hundreds of arrests since its inception in 2016.
The €5 million operation involves increased garda visibility; targeted searches; high visibility checkpoints; increased motorway patrols; use of intelligence and technology to target known offenders and gangs and a national awareness campaign.