Garda checkpoints back on Shannon bridges with new crime crackdown


GARDA checkpoint measures to protect isolated communities in western counties moved into a new phase yesterday. Extra resources are being poured into Operation Retrieval.

The Garda western region, covering counties Clare, Galway, Roscommon and Mayo, is monitoring traffic crossing the Shannon bridges, with back-up mobile patrols carrying out spot checks.

Operation Retrieval is a continuation of Operation Shannon which began in January, following a spate of rural attacks and burglaries carried out by "outside" gangs.

Deputy Commissioner P.J. Moran said yesterday that attacks on the elderly were down as a result by 60 per cent in the first 10 months of the year.

Since July the focus switched from 24-hour monitoring of the Shannon bridges to a system of roving checkpoints. But the new phase is refocussing on the main bridges of Killaloe, Athlone, Lanesborough, Termonbarry and Carrick-on-Shannon.

A Garda spokesman said up to 200 checkpoints would be set up daily. The Air Corps has provided a helicopter, based in Athlone.

Chief Supt Tom Monaghan of Galway said armed detectives, drawn from the six divisonary forces, were providing back-up support to the mobile and static patrols.

"They will be in a position to respond to any situation that may be encountered by the uniformed section or deal with any `turn bad' situation," he said.

New "Stinger spikes", which progressively deflate tyres, also form part of the armoury.

Chief Supt Monaghan said gardai were also watching for shoplifting gangs and credit card, cheque book and counterfeit fraudsters.

"We make no apology for watching people who may engage in serious crime in the run-up to Christmas," he said.

Sgt John Freeley, of Roscommon Garda Station, said while it was difficult to quantify the success of the operation, half of the 42 burglaries by "travelling criminals" in the region since September had been solved or were in the process of being solved as a result of the operation.

Insp Michael Finn, who is coordinating a similar type operation - Operation South West - covering Cork, Kerry and Limerick said this year's initiative began on December 9th.

It was born out of the success of last year's Limerick-based, anti-armed robbery measures. "It has tremendous effect. The public is delighted. They feel reassured by it."

Supt Tony Kennelly of the Limerick division said the pre-Christmas period had always been a focus for robberies.

A spokesman for the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association said that while the Christmas operations were welcome, a greater Garda presence in rural areas was needed.

"The very limited hours of opening in rural Garda stations must end if rural communities are to get a proper policing service," said Mr Dan McCarthy, chairman of the ICMSA Rural Development Committee.