Thieves go online to know when homes are empty

A top Garda has told how thieves are using Facebook and Twitter to spy on their victims to discover when they leave their homes on holidays or on social occasions.

Insp Niall Featherstone from the Garda National Crime Prevention Unit has also revealed that almost one-in-three burglars break in straight through the front door.

With a 7% rise in burglaries in the last year, Insp Featherstone said people needed to be careful about the information they disclosed on social networks.

“Last year, there 26,500 burglaries around Ireland. This year to date up to up to Jul 31, we have seen a 7% increase.

“For anyone to be the injured party and the victim of a burglary is an awful thing to go through.

“A recent phenomenon is where some people go on social media sites and they would advertise the fact that they are not at home and that they are on holidays and away from the home.

“It’s not a wise move. We do have people looking in on that.”

He said fresh data has also shown how burglars are gaining access to homes through unsecured front doors or windows.

“Almost a third of burglaries happen when a front door or a front window is unsecured. It is a very, very simple but very stark fact.

“Those kinds of simple things can make a big difference.

“We are now coming into the winter months and traditionally burglaries will increase this time of year.

“When you leave your home, leave it secure.

“The top three things would be cash, jewellery, and electronic items such as tablets or laptops.

“We would ask people especially with cash not to leave large amounts of it lying around at home.

“Believe it or not, that is happening.”

One victim of a burglary, pensioner Seamus Lawlor, relived his terrifying ordeal at the hands of four masked robbers on Jul 27.

The 75-year-old told TV3’s Morning Show how he was left bound and gagged for hours before he managed to crawl to the door for help.

The pensioner, who lived on his own since his mother died in 1984, said he initially thought he was seeing ghosts when masked men burst into his bedroom at about 1.30am.

“I decided to take them on in my own mind. I made an effort to get out of the bed.

“They had me pinned down. They tied my arms to the back and my two legs together and lifted me out of the bed. They blindfolded me with a shorts out of the press and shoved a handkerchief into my mouth.

“I was expecting anything. I am thanking God now for my life. One was coming back every five minutes in saying ‘Where is the money? Where is the money?’

“I said to him ‘I have no money at all, I don’t keep money in the house’. I said ‘For God’s sake, leave me along I am on medication. I am a man of 75 years of age’.”

The thieves left empty-handed leaving the bound pensioner lying on the ground on his cottage but he managed to make it to outside his front door where he waited for four hours for help before a passing man heard his cries and phoned the police.

“I was creeping along the floor inch by inch. I thought I would never make it.”

After his traumatic ordeal Mr Lawlor has had bars installed on the windows of his home and an alarm installed.

“The guards are visiting me and telling me they are doing their best and getting stories from the neighbours. That has eased my mind as well.”

Insp Featherstone said gardaí needed to work with local communities to raise awareness about the rise in burglaries and try and prevent it happening.

“It’s good to be a nosy neighbour whether it involves community alert or neighbourhood watch.

“People looking out for each other makes a massive difference and can reassure people.”

* Read more:

Warning after con men posing as gardaí target rural elderly

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