break-in surge | 

Burglary rates double in some areas as motorway gangs make post-pandemic return

Break-ins are on the rise since pandemic restrictions lifted

Burglar. Stock image©

Garda checkpoint


BURGLARY gangs have returned to the motorway network, with the rate of break-ins doubling in some parts of the country.

Dublin and counties connected to the capital directly through the network of motorways have the highest burglary rates in the country.

An analysis of crime figures by also shows that counties in the north-west have the lowest break-in rates in Ireland.

While burglaries reduced significantly during Covid-19 restrictions, sources have warned they are returning to pre-pandemic levels.

In recent months, burglary rates have doubled in some counties, while one garda division noted a six-fold increase.

While the summer months traditionally see fewer burglaries, there are fears that gangs will target empty homes while owners holiday abroad this year.

In the last three months, gardaí have had high-profile successes against marauding burglary gangs, leading to several arrests.

The most prolific gangs have been operating in teams of five and use high-powered cars, normally stolen from the UK and fitted with false plates, to carry out their crime sprees.

The criminals have also been targeting homes in daylight with no apparent fear of being identified.

In the 12 months to March of this year, Dublin had the highest rate of burglary related crimes per population in the country. There were 285 reported incidents per 100,000 people, which included burglary, aggravated burglary, and possession of tools to be used in a burglary.

Most of the country’s organised gangs are based in south Dublin, so there is no surprise that counties with direct motorway access to the capital are also at the top of the crime table.

Limerick had the second-highest burglary rate, with 246 per 100,000 people, followed by Westmeath, with 242, and Louth, with 234.

Laois and Offaly, policed by the same garda division, saw 225 burglary related crimes per 100,000 people, with Wexford recording 214.

The lowest burglary rate in that time period was in Donegal, which had 80 such reported crimes per 100,000 people, followed by Mayo, with 97.

While most recent complete figures for the country are as of March, newer provisional figures show that many counties are seeing high increases in burglary rates in recent months.

This includes Laois, where burglaries have more than doubled from 26 to 61 in a year, while Clare has reported an increase of 90pc.

In Dublin, figures up to June show that burglaries have increased by 37pc compared to last year.

The crime rates have risen in every garda division in the capital, with the highest increase of 54pc in the south, which comprises areas including Tallaght, Crumlin and Rathmines.

A source said burglary figures are “starting to creep up to 2019 figures”, with increases recorded in most garda divisions.

Bucking the trend is the Carlow/Kilkenny division which has only seen six burglaries so far this month, fewer than expected.

Councillors in west Cork were also recently told that break-ins had risen significantly, from 10 in 2020 when there were Covid lockdowns, to 65 in recent months.

While there have been returns to pre-pandemic levels, overall burglary rates have fallen significantly following the introduction of Operation Thor in 2015.

One gang was captured on camera stealing a safe from a property in Donnybrook earlier this year, with one burglar nominated as a suspect after his face was clearly visible.

Garda checkpoint

Other criminals have been identified through recording devices inside a property they were burgling, resulting in prosecutions.

However, despite several key arrests, in many instances the suspects were released on bail while awaiting trial and continue their crime sprees.

Their usual modus operandi is to target unoccupied homes to operate undisturbed, although they have been known to use violence when confronted, particularly when involved in the unauthorised taking of high-powered vehicles.

Investigations are ongoing into a number of burglaries around the country in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, a vulnerable 64-year-old man needed a dozen staples in his head and stitches in a leg wound after he was attacked in his home.

The man’s attackers escaped with about €100 in the incident in Carlow, and detectives are investigating if it was carried out by an organised gang from outside the area and if the victim was targeted in a planned crime.

Weeks earlier, on the night of June 24, up to eight homes were targeted in the Blackrock area of Dublin.

The homes were ransacked and robbed, with the crimes bearing the hallmarks of an organised burglary gang.

One gang was also suspected of carrying out dozens of burglaries on both sides of the border over several weeks in March.

At one stage, they were suspected of using Belfast as a base to target Armagh, Newry and Lisburn, where there were more than a dozen burglaries in just a few days.

In the other raids, safes were robbed from business people and bleach was used to destroy evidence by the gang.

They were also suspected of using Dublin as a base and using the same stolen car in more than two dozen burglaries in Derry and Tyrone, while later focusing their activities on Dublin, Meath, Cavan as well as other counties in the Republic.

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