Armed gardai set to swarm towns in hunt for crime suspects
Heavily-armed gardai will be conducting "intense" operations in selected towns across the entire eastern garda region between now and Christmas, the Herald can reveal.
Armed officers from the Regional Support Unit (RSU) have already begun the focused operations, which involve planned searches, hunts for suspects for whom arrest warrants are in place, as well as multiple road checkpoints.
"This is about disrupting criminal networks at a very local level with in-your-face policing tactics," a source said.
The planned armed garda operations, which will take place for the next four months, are being conducted as part of Operation Thor, which was launched nationwide last November, primarily to tackle burglaries.
The robust policing plan in the eastern region is being directed by Assistant Commissioner Fintan Fanning. It focuses on six Leinster counties - Wicklow, Meath, Kildare, Westmeath, Laois and Offaly.
Last weekend members of the RSU spent several days in the Arklow area of Co Wicklow, where they conducted a number of special operations.
It emerged last Saturday that RSU officers who were in the Arklow area as part of the special policing plan were called to a "stand-off" that broke out at a Junior A hurling final.
The RSU members, as well as other local garda units, were present at the end of the match between St Patrick's and Kiltegan GAA, both from Wicklow, after gardai responded to reports threats being made at the game.
It is understood that racist language was used against members of the Traveller community who were at the game.
This led to threats of physical violence and an incident in which a hurl was thrown from the pitch and into the air.
However, by the time armed gardai arrived at the scene, the situation had calmed and no arrests were made.
St Patrick's manager Michael Neary told the Wicklow People newspaper that he was aware of "very loud comments" being made towards his players.
"We don't play hurling for this. I think this should be dealt with by officials.
"I was shocked at the nature of the abuse and it is a concerning element that has crept into the game," Mr Neary said.
"Discipline is very important, but it is very hard to keep control when provoked with comments like this."
Meanwhile, the latest Central Statistics Office figures revealed that there was an 11pc drop in burglary and related offences in the eastern region in the final three months of last year, compared to the same time in 2014.
Figures show 4,462 burglary and related offences were recorded last year in the eastern region, down from almost 5,000 in the last three months of 2014, a drop of 11.3pc.
Kidnapping and related offences doubled in the region, from nine in the final quarter of 2014 to 18 in the final three months of last year.
Weapons and explosive offences also increased, by 14pc, in the same period, the figures showed.