Burglary bucks the trend as recession fuels need for cash and alternative criminal career

Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 01:00

Burglary is one of the few categories of crime that has increased in recent years

BURGLARIES   ARE up by 15 per cent since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008. Garda sources believe the reasons for this are many and varied – ranging from the decline in the drug trade to people publicising their absence from home on Facebook.

With demand for recreational drugs having fallen in line with disposable income, many street dealers are finding it more difficult to generate an income on the lower rungs of the drug-dealing ladder. “It appears the ones that are hooked on drugs are doing more break-ins to pay for , and the value of gold jewellery now is also driving it because . . . they turn it into cash very quickly,” said one detective.

Several gardaí who spoke to The Irish Times said they were concerned people’s use of social media site Facebook was increasing their vulnerability to break-ins.

“You have people using the check-in function to register where they are all the time, often miles away from home or even away on a foreign holiday,” said one garda. “Lots of these people have hundreds and hundreds of Facebook friends, sometimes thousands. They actually haven’t a clue who these friends are. And they often don’t have their account on a private setting anyway, so anyone can view their page.”

There are other, more traditional ways for burglars to find out if a house is empty. “We’ve had loads of cases down the years of burglars looking at the death notices in newspapers to see what funerals are on and working out what houses will be empty during the funeral so they can rob them.”

Some Garda sources believe another factor may be that stolen jewellery can be more easily sold on the streets than previously. However, a recent report compiled by the Garda found no evidence to suggest cash for gold outlets were generally buying stolen jewellery.

Datacompiled by the Garda suggests 37 per cent of burglars enter a target property through a poorly secured door or window. Some 27 per cent get in through the front door by kicking it in or smashing a glass panel or surround and putting their hand inside to open the door. This “highlights the need to have a second, Chubb-style lock on the front door,” said a Garda source.

In 32 per cent of cases, householders make it very easy for burglars by leaving a door or window open. Gardaí say 23.5 per cent of break-ins occur between noon and 4pm, with a 16 per cent drop in residential burglaries during the summer.

“It may be because children are on school holidays and a parent who is normally out working is at home more often with the kids during the day,” said one garda.

The increase in burglaries comes at a time when virtually every other major crime type is falling. Recorded crimehas fallen by 13 per cent since 2008, with gun crime having halved.

Burglaries have become a source of concern for the Garda and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, whose own home was coincidentally burgled earlier this year. Dundrum Garda station, which investigated that case, has seen its burglary rate increase by 12.4 per cent since 2007.

The breakdown of burglaries reported to each Garda station put together by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and the All-Island Research Observatory (Airo) at NUI Maynooth shows Tallaght and Blanchardstown stations in west Dublin have to deal with more of them than any other stations. Tallaght had 922 cases last year, while 628 cases were reported to Blanchardstown station.

Next, with 377 cases reported last year, is Waterford Garda station. Roxboro in Limerick is fourth with 376 burglaries last year. Pearse Street in Dublin’s south inner city is fifth, with 369.

The top five stations for burglaries are all urban Garda stations dealing with large catchment populations, a factor that has to be taken into account when comparing burglary rates between Garda stations that deal with hugely varying population sizes.

Criminal and Garda sources say many middle-class areas are specifically targeted by criminals who travel to homes they believe will yield valuable pickings. The CSO-Airo figuresshow many middle-class neighbourhoods closer to the top of the list than they do for other categories of crime.

Gardaí in Rathfarnham, south Dublin, for example, dealt with 347 burglaries last year, a ranking of seventh in the list of 704 Garda stations. However, in the ranking for overall crime last year, the station was much further down, in 27th position.

Other Garda stations in middle-class areas of Dublin that feature in the top 25 stations for most burglary reports last year include: Clontarf (9th, 333 cases); Dundrum (15th, 298); Donnybrook (21st, 280); and Rathmines (23rd, 278).

In February, a national Garda drive against burglaries, Operation Fiacla, was launched. It involves more Garda foot and vehicle patrols in locations identified as experiencing clusters of burglaries. It has also involved intensive high-level investigations into gangs that travel through the regions to carry out planned robberies targeting everything from farm vehicles and heavy plant to high-performance vehicles and antiques.

Some senior Garda sources said they had begun to see the results of those targeted operations and an increased public awareness on the issue of securing one’s home, saying in some areas burglaries are marginally down. They conceded it was too early to say if this would become a trend.