Burglars trawl Facebook, Twitter for targets, gardaí say

Warning about posting holiday plans on social media and to tighten up home security

Police in Florida are hunting for two suspects caught on CCTV breaking into a house as the occupants slept just feet away on their couch. Video: Brevard County Sheriff's Office

 

Burglars search social media for opportunities to plan crimes and householders need to be especially wary coming up to Christmas, the Garda has said.

Cash and property with a combined value of €9.1 million was stolen in burglaries across the State in the 12 months to the end of June.

And the Garda’s National Crime Prevention Unit is warning the public to invest in better locks for their front doors and timers for lights now that the dark winter evenings have arrived.

Sgt Kelvin Courtney of the Garda National Crime Prevention Unit said social media is a growing problem. “People need to realise that whatever they are putting up online; they may as well write it on a piece of paper and stick it to the front of their house,” he told The Irish Times.

He said while social media users could avail of privacy settings, he questioned why Facebook users, for example, would trust all of their online friends by posting details about when and where they were going away on holiday. “That message is not going into the ether, you’re broadcasting it,” he said, adding details posted could be discussed in public places and overheard by opportunists.

Criminals had long checked death notices in newspapers and online to establish when family homes would be vacant during a funeral. And he believes social media is being used in much the same way, agreeing Twitter was perhaps easier to search, especially under suburb names, than Facebook.

At Christmas, people should only post details of travel or photos of trips away after their return. And any new valuables should be photographed and marked.

Open windows and doors

Sgt Courtney was speaking as the Garda launched its Lock Up, Light Up initiative to help combat burglaries.

In 29 per of cases criminals were breaking in through the front door of houses, mostly using body pressure to barge a door open. Burglars gained access via back doors in 29 per cent of cases, back windows in 24 per cent and front windows in eight per cent of all break-ins.

However, 19 per cent of burglaries involved intruders entering a property through an open door or window, meaning some householders need to improve their basic security. Some 46 per cent of burglaries occurred between 5pm and 11pm.

The average value of cash and/or property stolen was €600 per crime. Cash, jewellery, computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles were among the top items stolen.

Sgt Courtney said homeowners should fit doors with mortise locks or have such locks fitted to existing doors to make their front doors more secure. A mortise lock is one sunken into a door rather than having a lock screw on; which are much easier to force open. Many locks are anti-snap, anti-bump and anti-drill and home owners need to invest in these for front and back doors.

It is also possible to buy devices for patio or sliding doors to ensure they are not lifted off their rollers by burglars.