Burglary is on the rise, but so are the daft schemes thieves are coming up with, says Jonathan deBurca Butler
A REPORT by the Central Statistics Office has confirmed an increase in burglaries in recent years. The number of burglaries has risen from 24,913, in 2006, to 27,439, in 2011.
Dublin had the most burglaries, with 823.4 per 100,000 in 2010, yet the south, which includes the urban populations of Cork City and Limerick City, had 374.6 break-ins per 100,000. The recession, a breakdown in community communication, the gap between the haves and have-nots and the declining numbers of gardaí on the beat are contributing factors. Whatever the reasons, Thieves are being forced to use more brazen methods in pursuit of their swag.
A few years ago, gardaí warned residents in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, against leaving their car keys in any place near an opening to their houses, such as letterboxes or cat flaps. The advice came after several cars had been stolen from houses using the owners’ car keys.
Gardaí believe that the keys had been fished out of the owners’ houses through their letterboxes with a fishing rod.
Had a recently-arrested 17-year-old from Belfast stumbled across that fishing story, it might have prevented him from a sticky situation.
PSNI officers on a recent routine patrol of the Dunmurry area of Belfast came across the young man crouched down near the letterbox of a house he was attempting to burgle.
When the officers approached him, it became clear that the young man was stuck. Fire crews were called to remove the letterbox from the door and the suspect was arrested on suspicion of attempted burglary.
How he was cuffed is not reported, but the young man was eventually taken to Lisburn police station where the letterbox was removed.
Some thieves are prepared to go to some extraordinary lengths to add to their loot. In Mar 2010, two men were each fined €350 in Tallaght district court for stealing clothes from a recycling bin in Rathfarnham shopping centre.
One of the men had climbed into the bin through the lid at the top and handed bags of clothes out to the other man. They were caught leaving the scene in a red van after Gardaí had been notified by local security.
They did, however, do slightly better than 28-year-old Englishman, Bradley Stoke, who was recently caught on film getting stuck in a recycling bin near Bristol.
After four hours inside the bin, he was freed by the local fire service.
If we are to believe reports coming from both Sweden and Spain earlier this year, not even buses are safe. Over there, people are hidden inside suitcases or carrier bags, which are then loaded into coaches’ luggage compartments.
When the coaches set off, the thief emerges from the carrier bag, a la Houdini, and rummages through his fellow passengers’ belongings.
In one case, involving a shuttle bus from Barcelona Airport, a Polish man was discovered in a bag “doubled-up like a contortionist,” wearing a headlamp and holding a cutting tool in his hand.
Both he and his accomplice, who was travelling in the more comfortable passenger compartment, were arrested.
Both law makers and law breakers have harnessed technology for their own benefit. But knowing how, and when, to use new-fangled gadgets is of the utmost importance. This was demonstrated by a Dubliner in his mid-30s who was caught after he photographed himself with a mobile phone which he then left behind in a house he had just burgled.
Earlier in the day, the man in question had stolen a rucksack and a phone from an unlocked car. He later broke into a house, but was chased out of it by the owner. As the burglar ran from his pursuant, he dropped the rucksack which contained the phone. He was arrested the following month, after the photograph he had taken was found.
He had 80 previous convictions. And he fits the stereotype. The aforementioned figures from the CSO are stark. Of the 2,258 people convicted for burglary in 2010, 1,881 were men between the ages of 18 and 44.
The report also shows that only 25% of reported burglaries in 2010 were detected, hardly a huge disincentive for any would-be burglar.
In an effort to tackle crime, gardaí are encouraging communities to sign up to a new initiative known as the community text alert scheme.
“We’ve about 600 members at the moment,” says Ray Roche, of Cobh Neighbourhood Watch. “There had been a few burglaries in the area. So we set it up in February and the feedback has been very positive so far.”
The idea is simple. Any information deemed significant by Gardaí is texted to those signed up. As Mr Roche says, the information texted is selective. People are not bombarded with information, but they do feel part of the community.
Often, simply knowing that other people know something, can be reassuring.
“We’re growing all the time,” says Mr Roche. “It’s word-of-mouth, really, and the more people that know about it and sign up, the better it works.”
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