Latest crime figures released by gardaí reveal 513 burglaries reported in the county’s three garda districts between Nov 1 and Jan 31.
The biggest number of burglaries, 285, occurred in the Cork City garda division, which covers the city and all its major suburbs apart from Glanmire. This represented a 29% increase on the previous figures.
In the Cork North garda division, there was a 42% increase in burglaries, to total 138.
However, the biggest percentage increase was in Cork West, where 90 burglaries represented a 55% hike.
Speaking at the city and county joint policing committee, Superintendent Mick Comyns, based in North Cork, said the “level of burglaries was unacceptable”.
He said gardaí in the region had analysed areas at risk at particular times and sent out patrols to catch the burglars, but the criminals had responded by changing their times and target areas.
Supt Comyns said thieves were no longer interested in stealing laptops and widescreen televisions but were seeking cash and jewellery instead.
Supt Eddie MacEoin who delivered the crime figures for West Cork said that, in many cases, householders were not setting their alarms when they left their homes. Burglars, he said, were targeting homes during the day and early evening for soft pickings.
Chief Supt Michael Finn, in charge of the city, reported the same scenario in his area. “We are now feeling the effects of the downturn in the economy where people who were previously involved in the drugs trade at the lower levels had turned to burglary.”
The chief superintendent also said there was evidence some people who had been squeezed by social welfare cuts were also jumping on the bandwagon.
Theft of diesel and valuable metals are also on the increase as a result of the recession.
The three senior garda reported they had some recent successes in catching gangs who had been using siphoning equipment to steal diesel from lorries and home heating oil from householders.
However, a number of councillors attending the meeting, including Frank O’Flynn and Dan Fleming, said they believed the theft of diesel was seriously underreported.
Supt Comyns said the public should report all thefts, otherwise gardaí could not return recovered property.
Thefts from vehicles are also up. In West Cork, they rose from 27 to 41, a 52% increase. Supt MacEoin said many cars were targeted while their owners were out walking at scenic spots or parked outside churches for Mass.
In North Cork Supt Comyns reported a 72% increase, from 29 to 50.
He also said allegations of sexual assault in his division had risen from six to 14 (133%) but said that many of these cases “were historical”.