Statistics for the past eight months showed that incidents of taking of property averaged five per day, with gangs of professionals from outside the Kerry division targeting the county, the meeting in Tralee was told.
Chief Superintendent Pat Sullivan said burglary and theft are the single biggest problem faced by officers in the division.
There were 1,128 incidents of robberies, burglaries, and thefts investigated by gardaí between January and August this year. Overall, there has been a 7% increase on the same period the previous year.
Burglary of houses rose from 243 to 286 during the eight-month period year-on- year, and shoplifting was up from 313 to 354 incidents. Robberies of an establishment or institution where force was used and a person put in fear rose from one in 2014 to six in 2015.
Some 45 bikes were taken in Kerry between January and August. There were 28 cases of theft from a person, 98 from vehicles, and some 247 “other thefts”.
The number of thefts from vehicles was down slightly on the previous period, as was handling of stolen property.
“Burglaries are the big issue. People are coming in from outside the division and committing crime. And we have our own home-grown people,” Chief Supt Sullivan said.
Kerry is a big rural county and burglary presents challenges in policing. Some 87 gardaí were lost to the force in Kerry since 2009 — 64 of these had left in the period since 2010, including two sergeants. Kerry was still down three inspectors, although it had 13 extra gardaí in recent months.
Help from locals and the public is vital and one individual preying on elderly people had been caught by gardaí as a direct result of public assistance, Chief Supt Sullivan said. Another individual suspected of a series of burglaries in west Kerry is being held in another Garda division, again as a result of public assistance, he added.
Sean Roche a community representative for south and west Kerry on the forum, said robberies from shops and stores had reached “epidemic level”. Gangs are coming to the county for 12-hour sprees and more gardaí are needed on the ground, he added.
Donal Grady, a councillor in Killarney, where there have been at least three incidents in which large amounts of cash have been stolen from homes, said house robberies had reached “frightening levels”.