Three arrested at building site after operation targets prolific burglars
Three members of a west Dublin Traveller gang have been arrested and questioned about an attempted burglary at a building site in Co Wicklow.
Gardai from the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB), working as part of Operation Thor, arrested the three men late on Thursday evening in Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow.
The three men, aged 18, 31 and 43, are from the Clondalkin and Ballyfermot areas, and were snared as part of a special surveillance operation organised by the DOCB against burglary gangs.
Sources said officers were last night examining a seized Hyundai vehicle as part of the investigation and charges in the case were "very likely".
The Traveller criminals were targeting "copper wire and building supplies" from the building site, which is expanding the existing Wicklow Hills housing estate.
Site staff refused to comment when approached yesterday.
The bust was just the latest success by gardai in their crackdown against burglar mobs in Co Wicklow.
The Herald can reveal the 43-year-old arrested man, who is from Collinstown, is currently on bail after being charged in relation to a series of robberies across Tipperary and the south-east last August.
He has been one of the main targets for officers nationwide in Operation Thor, the special garda crackdown on rural crime.
Rural campaigners have warned the operation now requires increased resources and tactical flexibility given how crime gangs have adapted to garda strategies.
The 31-year-old suspect was sentenced last year for theft from a number of building sites in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
Their 18-year-old associate has also been a main target for anti-burglary garda units.
The scale of the theft of tools from tradesmen and business owners has forced some out of business, in what gardai believe is an operation involving an international network of criminals.
Thursday night's bust happened as the Herald revealed gardai in Co Wicklow have drawn up a detailed list of prolific burglary and theft offenders known as the "Filthy 50" in a massive drive against the crime epidemic.
None of the arrested suspects is understood to be on that list.
The crackdown by an eastern garda division has seen a dramatic drop in burglaries in the first two weeks of the year.
Gardai have established that 22 of the "Filthy 50" are based within the Bray garda district alone, which is part of the Wicklow division - where a special "scoring card" against criminals was drawn up.
So far, a total of nine of these suspects have been locked up as part of the special policing plan, which has been ongoing for three months.
Specialist officers have compiled a list of serious offenders, who have been ranked in terms of priority from one to 50 in relation to crimes committed.
Sources have revealed the intensive garda drive against the criminal mobs targeting Co Wicklow has paid major dividends.
"January has always been the worst month for burglaries in Co Wicklow and in the first two weeks of last year there were 41 burglaries committed in the county, but in the first two weeks of this year there were 17," a source said.
Investigations have established that out of the 32 "prime target" criminals based in Co Wicklow, 19 of them are juvenile offenders.
The clampdown comes after an operation was set up last September to tackle the criminals in a multi-faceted way.