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PJ Browne: Organised crime for trade worth millions

BAGS of clothes left for genuine charities have been for a long time the target of eastern European gangs and gypsies.

Well-organised gangs from places such as Romania, Latvia and Lithuania target areas where bags of clothes are left out and steal them.

A few years ago, former colleagues of mine at Pearse Street Garda Station discovered a large warehouse in the Glasnevin area full to the brim with clothes, furniture and other useable items.

All of these had been donated by honest people, then stolen, and were destined for resale in Eastern European countries.

The trade from Ireland alone is worth millions annually.

Only last Sunday, while parked in the car park of Superquinn in Blanchardstown, I witnessed a Roma gypsy woman leaning into a container for the collection of clothes. With her legs dangling she was selecting and retrieving clothes of good quality and then handing them out to a man who was helping her.

Like our local organised crime outfits, such operations have now become organised into groups from the countries mentioned, and others, who will take over an area and divide the spoils of their fraudulent collections.

But some areas are far more lucrative than others. And so the turf war, common in all forms of organised crime, begins.

What commonly happens is that a hostile gang would do an earlier collection thus depriving the 'local' gang of its spoils and causing resentment.

And so a turf war starts and eventually death is brought on to the streets.

Beatings occur, cars are damaged -- none of which is reported to the gardai in fear that more serious consequences like shootings and deaths will be inflicted.

It should be mentioned that the Lithuanian man, and his son, targeted in last Friday's shooting are legitimate workers and not involved in such crime.

Sadly, they were targeted nonetheless.

Finally, what can the innocent and charitable householder do in all this?

My advice would be that if you have any item to donate to a genuine charity drop it in directly to the respective shop.

PJ Browne is a former detective superintendent with over 35 years experience in policing serious crime