Updated: 08/11/17 : 05:59:24
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Travelling crime gangs use social media and local spotters

Travelling crime gangs have responded to the Operation Thor crackdown by gardaí on rural burglaries with a change in tactics.

Urban gangs are now trying to avoid the motorway network which, between 2009 and 2015, they exploited to unleash a reign of terror across rural Ireland.


Instead, gangs are now using old primary routes to try to minimise Garda attention, switching to lower-profile vehicles, paying local informants for information on which homes to target and even monitoring social media to determine when houses are empty.

Independent.ie reports that gangs are now increasingly avoiding the use of luxury cars such as BMWs, Audis and Volvos.

Instead, gangs prefer using nondescript but powerful cars to avoid attracting attention to themselves while they scout areas for break-ins.

Spotters


Gangs are also devoting more resources to local intelligence sources – paying ‘spotters’ in specific areas to identify target houses for them.


These houses are then specially marked to identify them to the burglars.

Raiders are now increasingly trying to avoid houses with alarms or dogs in a bid to prevent a rapid Garda response.

However, gardaí are now increasingly concerned at the way gangs and local ‘spotters’ are using social media to help identify when houses are temporarily empty or owners are away.

'Social media'


“We have come across cases where particular homes have been robbed and the suspicion is that it was on the clear basis of information obtained from social media postings by the family involved,” a senior Garda warned.

“People need to be very careful of what they are posting on social media about their movements, their purchases or even when they go on holidays if they do not have strict privacy settings on their pages.

“For some time people in rural areas have been aware that properties are vulnerable during events like funerals or weddings when it is known that no one will be home.

“But people need to be aware that their social media postings can also offer the same kind of information to the wrong people.”

Gang tactics

The success of Operation Thor for gardaí came against a backdrop that just three in every 10 crimes against property are solved in some areas.

Gardaí admitted there has been a worrying shift in gang tactics to greater use of local intelligence to target specific potentially ‘high-yield’ targets.

Cash and jewellery account for an estimated 90pc of the valuables stolen from homes.


Garda patrol cars were also rammed in incidents in Dublin, Donegal, Waterford and Laois by gangs attempting to evade arrest after burglary blitzes.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) warned that lives are being put at risk by such dangerous behaviour.