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Burglary gang 'travelling around country scoping out homes to raid'

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House break-ins are down

House break-ins are down

House break-ins are down

Specialist gardai are carrying out a major operation against a Tallaght-based burglary gang who have been seen using the motorway system in recent days to "scope out properties" for burglaries.

Sources said the gang have linked up with a Ballyfermot mob suspected of blowing up ATMs in a spate of raids in the past decade.

The development comes after one of the sharpest ever decreases in residential bur- glaries in the history of the State because so many people are now forced to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, sources said the family-based Traveller gangs, who have a nationwide network, are still attempting to carry out residential burglaries in the midst of the unprecedented health crisis.

"They're being watched and they know they are, but this hasn't stopped them, even though they're having very limited success," a source told the Herald.

"The gang have been travel- ling around the country in a distinctive blue Volkswagen Golf that has been observed at a number of locations in recent days, including in the Kilcock area of Co Kildare.

"In one instance, this gang are suspected of knocking on doors of houses in Stradbally, Co Laois, on Sunday evening in an attempt to see if the occupants were inside.

"The gang are also being looked at for two burglaries which happened at vacant properties in Errill and Ballybrophy in Co Laois on Monday."

While investigations into that gang's activities continue, much of the garda focus under Operation Thor - the national anti-burglary crackdown - is on raiders targeting commercial premises that are closed because of the pandemic.

Armed

This has led to an increase in resources being provided to the anti-burglary unit, with armed members of the Special Detective Unit (SDU) and other national units backing up their colleagues who patrol the motorways.

The expected spike in raids on closed commercial premises has not yet happened, but there have been a number of what are described as "highly lucrative" robberies.

One of these happened last Sunday afternoon at a phone store in Kinnegad, Co Westmeath, in which two men wearing masks and gloves broke in and escaped with a large number of mobile phones and laptops before fleeing in the direction of the M4.

"What's happening now is that some officers who would normally be dealing with murders or terrorist offences are being deployed to keep a close eye on the many businesses that have had to close down," the source said.

In another recent incident, detectives in Carlow arrested a 'Bonnie and Clyde' couple who were suspected of scoping out properties in the town.

The Dublin couple, aged in their 20s, who are believed to be part of an organised crime gang, are suspects in several nationwide burglaries that happened before the health crisis began.

Sources said they were arrested in a car that had been stolen in Northern Ireland, and they had been travelling the country in it.

A number of stolen items were seized from them when they were arrested.