The career burglar
INTERVIEW:A couple of times I called a taxi and got them to collect me at the gaff. You tell them you're moving and you want to put a bit of gear in the car, the plasma and that . . .
“I THINK I must have a bit of the kleptos in me; I’d rob anything,” says Ronny, a drug addict and by his own admission a serial burglarand robber in his late 30s, whose name has been changed for this piece.
He first got into trouble with the Garda before the age of 10, and more than 200 convictions and nearly three decades later he’s still “on the rob”. He says it’s common for people to leave substantial quantities of cash in their homes.
“You find it [cash] anywhere; under the bed, in a biscuit tin, a coffee jar. I got a roll of notes once in an ice cream box in the freezer; no ice cream in the f***ing thing, just cash. Sometimes they even leave it out on a counter . . . I don’t do old people’s gaffs, but if you do the money is always under the bed.”
Modern security features are not a major hindrance to breaking in, he says.
“There’s no door or window you can’t get past with the tools; a Philips screwdriver, a jemmy bar, a hammer. When you get in, if the alarm goes off you’ve two or three minutes [to] fly around the gaff looking for the money. If you have a car with you and if the gaff is not in an estate, you might stay a bit longer; get the plasma , the PlayStation, Xbox, all the games and all that. If you don’t leave prints forget about it, the Garda’ll never get you.
“If the gaff is a bit out in the country and the Garda station is miles away or closed down you have loads of time to load up the car if you have one. You just go up to a gaff, knock on the front door and if someone answers say you want a drink of water or water for the car. If nobody answers, just go round the back and get in.
“A couple of times . . . I called a taxi and got them to collect me at the gaff. You tell them you’re moving and you want to put a bit of gear in the car, the plasma and that. And when they come you put the gear in and they drive you off. They have to know what you’re up to; they’re not thick. But you pay them the fare; you might give them a few quid extra to keep their mouth shut.”
Ronny spoke to The Irish Times last week at a facility for homeless, drug addicted and alcoholic men. He says he needs to keep stealing to feed his drug habit. He describes himself as “a creeper as well as a burglar”.
“You go into a cafe or a shop, whatever it is, looking for [shoppers’] bags for the purses, wallets or the iPhones. If you get one of the iPhones in a burglary or in a handbag, that’s €100 you’ll get for that. If you do a gaff and you get an iPad, you’re looking at €200. You can sell them in dodgy little phone shops cos they’ll clean them up and get even more for them. Sometimes if they know you’re really strung out they’ll offer you less money. They’re bastards they are.”
Ronny insists he is not without some sympathy for those who houses he breaks into, adding that at present burglary is a big lure for petty criminals. “Course I’d have a bit of sympathy – you’re robbing their stuff, man. You’re going into their gaff and just taking it so, yeah, you might think of them a bit. But you just get in and out.
“You’re looking for money and jewellery; just get the cash . . . You can sell the jewellery, you’d sell it anywhere. Moorcroft bowls are a big seller as well. Just go up to Ballymun or somewhere. There’s loads of people up there owe money to the credit union or the loan sharks. You bring something up there that they know they’ll never be able to get unless they buy it from you at a knock-down price and they’ll give you money for it, f***ing sure they will.”
While he says organised criminals and those who work in groups will plan burglaries and carefully select targets, his crimes are more opportunistic and spur-of-the-moment.
“You know the places; Foxrock, Blackrock, Monkstown, Dún Laoghaire, all over there. You never rob in your own area. You never rob from the working class area you’re from; no way. If they catch you doing it they’ll break you up or they’ll cut you up.
“Take Ballymun, even. It’s right beside Santry; it’s only a wall between the two of them. The burglars do be saying, ‘Come on, they’re all bleedin’ loaded in Santry.’ But they’re probably not, man. But you go up there anyway to try and get a bit of money.
“If it’s old windows in a house you just pop them open. If it’s new windows it’s harder, but you just use a jemmy bar and get the door or the window popped open, you’ll do it if you pull hard enough. The sliding patio doors around the back, you just bust the lock with a screwdriver, something like that. And once it moves you just lift the sliding door off the rails. You lift it and lean it against the wall beside you, real quiet. ‘Thank you very much, in ya go.’”
Ronny began thieving when he was “five or six”, he says. “Me Ma left me with her best friend to look after me, then her best friend was stabbed to death – I seen it happening. Then I stayed in that house with the other people from the family. They’d have me wheeling shopping out of the shopping centre without paying, food and all that stuff. I was about five or six.
“Then when I got a bit older, you’d go into the shops and have a competition; see who can rob the most cans of Impulse . You’d be putting them down your tracksuit legs, up your sleeves, everywhere. You’d come out and everyone would count them all up to see who won. The winner got, well the winner got nothing, but you could say ‘I got the most cans of Impulse’. Stupid when you think about it.”
He says despite spending time in prison many times for crimes including burglary and dealing drugs, he has never reformed. “Since I seen my Ma’s mate getting stabbed to death my life has been a disaster, chaos . . . One place after another as a kid, all over the place.
“The people who help me in court now, some of them were around when I was only 10 or less, more than 20 or 30 years ago; they were in the Children’s Court then trying to look after you. I was JLO’d hundreds of times.
“I never knew me Da, never seen him, don’t know who he is. At first I used to be robbing for the people I was living with, then for drink for meself, for a long time for drink. Now it’s the drugs, this ages; burgling for it, ya know?”