Belfast Telegraph

Major Garda crackdown on burglary gangs with Operation Thor

The Government has committed to more mobile armed garda units, tougher bail rules and electronic tagging as part of a five million euro plan to blitz prolific burglary gangs.

The bulk of the money will pay overtime to put more officers in high-visibility patrols in crime hot-spots and put i ncreased checkpoints on the roads to intercept thieves.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said Operation Thor would be boosted by stricter criminal justice approaches by the courts as detectives are given more than a dozen high-powered Audi Q7s and BMW X range SUVs for pursuits.

"I am confident that this comprehensive operation by An Garda Siochana, supported by Government investment, will help disrupt the activities of burglars, organised crime gangs and prolific offenders and will improve the safety for all communities across the country," she said.

Six major crime gangs and 200 repeat burglars have been identified ahead of the crackdown.

The Government pointed to the 1,150 gardai being recruited and 34 million euro spent on new Garda vehicles since 2012 with more than 640 new vehicles added to the fleet this year.

The Garda said Operation Thor has been in planning for several months but the issue of rural crime and highly mobile gangs exploiting the motorway network has been forced by local groups in recent months.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan said the crackdown coincided with longer winter nights when burglaries traditionally increase.

On the policing front there will be increased garda visibility in local communities to act as a deterrent, m ore checkpoints and motorway patrols, new airborne surveillance, e nhanced use of intelligence, technology and data to target prolific offenders and organised crime gangs.

Gardai will also work more closely with communities to reduce opportunities for burglaries to take place and launch a na tional awareness campaign on security in the home.

"We are going to have a relentless focus on identifying, targeting, and disrupting criminals and bringing them to justice. We not only target offenders, but also their assets," the Commissioner said.

On bail changes, Ms Fitzgerald said burglary suspects with criminal records for house breaking and two or more minor charges will be remanded in custody while courts will also give reasons for their decisions.

Plans for electronic tagging have been revived and under new proposals prosecutors and gardai will be able to request the GPS monitoring.

Gardai will also be granted new powers of arrest to tackle suspects in breach of bail conditions.

On sentencing for repeat offenders Ms Fitzgerald highlighted new laws going through the Dail which will allow District Court judges to impose consecutive jails sentences where a burglar is being sentenced for multiple offences and tougher sentences and stricter bail for repeat offenders.

The minister said: "I believe that prison is the right place for serious and serial offenders."

She added: "While my preference is that serial offenders charged who are likely to commit further serious offences should be refused bail, I nonetheless recognise that the targeted use of electronic monitoring has potential in reducing re-offending."

The last major Garda crackdown on burglary and related crime, Operation Fiacla, led to more than 14,700 arrests and 8,350 charges.


From Belfast Telegraph