Three crime gangs that have been targeting the South East are largely responsible for the spike in burglaries that has hit Kilkenny in the past year, according to An Garda Síochána.
Gardaí say, however, that they have made several arrests in the past fortnight and that files are being prepared for the director of public prosecutions (DPP).
The rate of crimes in all categories except for burglary have decreased in the year to date, according to the latest Garda Policing Report, which was presented to Kilkenny County Council’s joint policing committee on Monday.
“The good news on that is that, although we had a serious increase since 2011 for the first part of the year, we have targeted some outside crime gangs that were coming particularly from Dublin in stolen cars and cars that had false number plates on them,” Supt Kevin Dolan said.
“We have had some significant success with that in that presently burglaries are up 17% (in Kilkenny/Carlow) – whereas they were up 160%. So we are significantly down, albeit we are showing a plus in the overall scheme of things.”
“There have been quite a number of arrests in the last fortnight and that is going to stay going until we beat it,” he said.
“Random and opportunistic” theft of domestic and industrial tools and equipment “is still a cause for concern,” the report notes – as are thefts in shops, which are occurring mainly on Fridays and Saturday afternoons in Kilkenny town shopping centres.
Regarding a “significant spike” in rural burglaries, the report says: “Three distinct groups of organised travelling criminals have been identified as being responsible for the majority of these crimes. They were identified as being involved in similar type crimes across the South East in Tipperary, Kilkenny and Wexford in particular.”
The report further notes that, in the year to date, €6 million worth of drugs has been seized in the county this year, primarily from cannabis grow houses. Ten arrests have been made in relation to these finds.
A key part of the solution, committee members agreed, is for communities to join together and help put criminals out of business.
“We should be urging local citizens to keep an eye out in their area for burglary and drug situations,” said Cllr Marie Fitzpatrick (Lab). “Sometimes we think it’s strangers coming in to sell the drugs but in fact it would be the people from the area.”
Those present urged people to report to the gardaí any suspicious vehicles or activities they see in their areas.
Cllr Fidelis Doherty (FG) pointed out, for example, that phone shops across the South East were targeted recently on the day that a new smart phone was released. “Five towns were targeted in one day, so they cross the county seven times,” she said.
One tactic being used in some areas is a text-messaging system linked up with An Garda Síochána whereby locals can send out warnings of suspicious activity or even crimes in action.
Cllr Paul Cuddihy (FG) spoke of a case in Wexford in which a woman sent out a text message saying that her house was being broken into while she was inside. When the text circulated, people from the local GAA club set up a road block where the men were fleeing, and they detained the men until the gardaí arrived.
“It’s about making criminals afraid rather than the community being afraid,” Cllr Cuddihy said.
Looking for weakness
When people are the victims of burglaries, they often feel that they have been specifically targeted, but Sgt PJ Whelan said that this was usually not the case.
“A lot of these people are just (driving around) and looking for weaknesses,” he said of what he described as “rat runs” by criminals. “They don’t particularly care what house they are breaking into, and they don’t particularly care about (county) boundaries.”
Asked whether the cash-for-gold shops were to blame for the upsurge, Supt Dolan said that their presence didn’t help the situation but that they did not appear to be the primary cause.
“It probably has a certain influence,” he said. “If it wasn’t there, we might not have seen such a spike. I’m not saying it’s directly related, though. It’s not just jewellery that it taken – it doesn’t come to the fore.”
In a lot of cases jewellery is left behind, he said.
Some thieves target jewellery or electronic equipment, and some will simply take what they can find. What they have in common, Sgt Whelan said, is that “all of them are looking for cash.”