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Kinahan gang could be nailed by low level thugs’ errors

Kinahan gang could be nailed by low level thugs’ errors

Intelligence gathering and saturation surveillance are the two key weapons that determine whether the gardaí can prevent further bloodshed in Dublin's deadly gangland feud.

Representative bodies and retired members of the Garda are all calling for more resources in terms of personnel and technology to boost the prospects of the force in dealing with serious crime.

But these are medium- and longer-term measures that take time to make an impact.

In the meantime, officers in the north inner city and in specialist units are trying to cope with a scenario that has already claimed six lives in four months.

Gardaí have a relatively good track record when it comes to solving murders and senior officers are satisfied that they have made substantial progress to date with their inquiries into the latest gangland deaths.

Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan has disclosed that officers investigating the seven feud murders - including the shooting of Gary Hutch in Spain last September, which sparked off the gang war - have so far made 13 arrests, recovered 17 firearms, carried out several major search operations and seized property worth more than €1m.

The big problem they face at the moment is having the intelligence and inside information that will allow them to make the pre-emptive strikes to stop further killings.

It would allow them to intercept the hitmen and remove more weapons from the streets.

The intelligence deficit in this case is partly due to the fact that the key players in the Kinihan cartel, who are responsible for six of the seven feud murders since September, are directing their operations from overseas.

It’s difficult to sustain an effort to gather information when the monitoring targets are located in another jurisdiction.

Even if the local police are co-operative, it can quickly get bogged down in bureaucratic procedures that tend to dominate and delay inquiries involving more than one police force.

These barriers remain in place, despite the annual promises from politicians in almost all EU countries to streamline international investigations.

The spate of terror attacks in France and Belgium over the past 16 months has highlighted how many obstacles in sharing information and intelligence have yet to be surmounted and, as a result, hindered cross-border co-operation that could have led to earlier arrests of suspects and possibly prevented some deaths.

Another factor making it more difficult for the gardaí to keep a watch on potential hitmen is the decision by the Kinahan gang to use low-level players to shoot rivals that have been targeted by them.

Some of those involved appear to be minor criminals, who are either under the influence of Kinahan associates based in the capital because of their use of drugs or who owe debts that require speedy payment.

It is evident from the modus operandi of the hitmen in some of the murders that they are not experienced gunmen but are carrying out orders under threat. In the most recent incident, the shooting earlier this week of Gareth Hutch, the two gunmen were even unable to start their getaway car.

They quickly had to abandon it, along with two firearms that were recovered nearby soon afterwards by the gardaí.

That lack of experience meant they were driven by desperation - fearful of the consequences if they failed, yet prepared to take the risks involved in carrying out a fatal shooting within a couple of hundred yards of an armed garda checkpoint.

Senior gardaí say those regular checkpoints and armed patrols in the inner city are vital to their operations, even if one did not prevent Monday's murder.

They argue that the success rate of armed checkpoints is often not tangible as the presence of gardaí with guns on the streets can often deter criminals from attempting to strike at another target in the area.

Another positive for the gardaí to take from the use of low-level criminals is that they are more prone to making mistakes.

This increases the prospects of the shooters leaving behind vital pieces of evidence that could lead to a prosecution, such as the early abandonment of weapons or the failure to burn out getaway cars, which opens up avenues to acquire forensic clues to their identity and the possibility of them being identified from footage taken from CCTV cameras in the area.

And if they are arrested and put under pressure by the forensic evidence gathered against them, there is also the likelihood that they could talk under questioning and provide information that helps investigators to move their focus onto the bigger players in the feud.

The task confronting the gardaí at the moment is a difficult one. But it is not insurmountable and the force has shown in the past that, given the necessary resources, it can produce the desired results.