Home burglaries down by over 50% since 2015, report says

New figures showing fall in crime come with warning due to data quality issues

Thomas Flynn was jailed in 2015 for the violent burglary of the Corcoran’s  family home in Tipperary. Photgraph: Liam Burke / Press 22

Thomas Flynn was jailed in 2015 for the violent burglary of the Corcoran’s family home in Tipperary. Photgraph: Liam Burke / Press 22

 

The annual number of residential burglaries has been cut by half since the introduction four years ago of a national strategy targeting mobile gangs, according to figures published by the Garda.

Operation Thor was introduced in 2015 with an initial investment of €5 million following a number of high-profile burglaries. A man in his 60s died of a heart attack in Co Limerick when confronting burglars at his home. In another case, a seven-man gang received long jail sentences for breaking into the home of the Corcoran family in Co Tipperary armed with guns and a machete.

Garda figures state that residential burglaries fell from 12,057, during the winter of 2014/2015, to 5,997 last winter. That also represented an almost 10 per cent reduction on the previous winter, when there were 6,613 residential burglaries.

Data quality

The Garda said the figures were released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) “under reservation”, which is the CSO’s notification that it does not produce the statistics and that there are issues of data quality in terms of how the figures are produced.

Operation Thor saw the placing of high-visibility checkpoints and increased patrols on motorways to deny criminals the use of the road network.

The force also introduced a fleet of high-powered BMW and Audi SUVs which were intended to combat Dublin-based criminals who used high-powered vehicles on the motorway network to target isolated rural homes and businesses.

Technology has also been more widely used for covert surveillance in addition to measures to disrupt the market for stolen goods.

The winter phase of Operation Thor runs from the start of October until the end of March as international evidence has established that a surge in burglaries of about 20 per cent is likely to arise in the winter months when daylight hours are at their lowest level.

The Garda said Operation Thor-related activities have led to numerous arrests of inter-regional travelling criminals where high-powered getaway vehicles were identified and intercepted.

Repeat offenders

The use of Garda case managers to oversee repeat offenders has also resulted in the effective use of bail legislation.

The force said checkpoints were “another key aspect” to reducing burglaries, providing “a visible deterrent to criminals and visible reassurance to society”. Between October 2018 and March 2019, there were more than 73,000 checkpoints undertaken by gardaí.

John O’Driscoll, assistant commissioner of special crime operations, said the involvement of the Criminal Assets Bureau has been central to the reduction in burglaries.

“Like any form of crime, the proceeds of crime are what it’s all about,” he said. “Criminal gangs are trying to increase their wealth. So the involvement of the Criminal Assets Bureau is a significant feature.

“In April, an operation led by the bureau involved searches of 11 premises in one day. In the course of that, high powered vehicles used in the committing of burglaries were seized, as well as cash and other assets.”

Mr O’Driscoll also said organised crime groups that engage in burglaries are different to those associated with drugs.

“Those who have an inclination to get involved in this kind of activity will scan the scene when they come out of prison, establish who else is out at that time, and form short-term alliances,” he said.

“If they are caught and go back to prison, the next time they come out again they will form a different alliance depending on who’s available at that time. So you can find one person who may have been involved with a number of organised crime groups engaged in burglary.”