‘Cash-for-gold’ shops face searches in fight against criminal gangs
GARDAI may be given new powers to search and inspect jewellers, antique dealers and ‘cash-for-gold’ outlets amid fears they are being exploited by criminal gangs.
Outlets that sell second-hand jewellery goods also face being hit with financial penalties if they fail to report “suspicious transactions” to gardai.
Individuals who sell jewellery and precious stones would be forced to provide proof of identity under plans drawn up by the Department of Justice.
The measures are being considered in response to growing public concern over the impact the ‘cash for gold’ trade has had on the rate of burglaries.
Some of the most dangerous burglary gangs in the country are suspected of involvement in using these stores to sell jewellery, including the mob which was led by slain crime figure ‘Fat’ Andy Connors.
A core group of up to 10 family-based mobs are involved in the crime wave that has targeted vulnerable rural homes and used the country’s motorway system to make rapid getaways.
The gangs, who use high-powered cars that often speed away from garda vehicles, are mostly Dublin-based and are made up of Traveller or Romanian criminals.
Most of the criminals are based in the Tallaght area of southwest Dublin but some also have addresses in other parts of the capital, including Rathfarnham, Dun Laoghaire and Shankill. It is estimated that more than 300 criminals are involved in the gangs. As far back as 2010, there were calls for regulation of the sector amid fears that they are responsible for an increase in burglaries.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald launched a public consultation document in a bid to seek the views of communities and business groups.
The consultation is in response to a growing level of feedback in both Dublin and parts of rural Ireland that homes are being ransacked specifically for gold and other jewellery goods.
The document outlines three main options for interest groups to consider:
* A ‘minimalist approach’ to tackling the problem through existing legislation and resources;
* A ‘comprehensive and resource intensive response’, which involves the registering of business and major new powers for gardai;
* A ‘mid-way approach’ that focuses on regulation and penalties for non-compliance.
Among the most radical proposals being considered by justice officials is the appointment of officers who could enter premises with a warrant, request access to records and remove items.
A Department of Justice source said the exact response will be finalised following the public consultation.