Criminal gangs have made off with over €40,000 worth of tools in the last eight weeks - including a massive haul from the worksite at Breifne College last weekend.
Despite best efforts by property owners and construction crews to secure tools, ride-on lawnmowers and other expensive equipment in locked sheds and steel containers, highly professional crews of thieves refuse to be deterred. Easily manoeuvred battery-powered handheld tools, including drilling equipment and angle-grinders are increasingly being used to carve out locks and cut bolted chains.
Thieves hit Breifne College in Cavan Town last weekend where a major multi-million euro renovation and extension project is currently underway. Gardaí at Cavan have confirmed theieves made off with valuable site equipment and tools including grinders, a water pump with hose, Hitachi saws and welders. The garda spokesman estimated the combined cost of the damage caused by accessing the site, together with tools stolen, could top €20,000.
Large hauls of tools have also been stolen from sheds or containers at homes throughout the county. One local home meanwhile lost up to €4,500 worth of tools as a result of a burglary, with gardai also appealing for information following several reported break-ins in the past week in the Castlesaunderson area between 11.30am-4.30pm on July 28, and Kildallan near Ballyconnell between 7pm-9am July 30-31.
Also hit in recent weeks were properties at Ballyhaise, Stradone and Kilnaleck.
Gardai and the Police Service of Northern Ireland have in recent weeks upped the ante on tenacious cross-Border criminal gangs focused on fencing tools stolen in either jurisdiction. An increased presence has been witnessed north of the Border specifically targetting local markets and public auctions where tools and other outdoor equipment are known to be sold and traded.
When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the PSNI would only go so far as to say: “We do not discuss operational matters.”
Earlier this year a crack Garda team, based out of Cavan Garda Station, uncovered what they believed to be a ‘Swap Shop’ system for stolen tools operating between criminals here and the UK.
They seized over 300 assorted tools, chainsaws and lawnmowers in a major haul from a van stopped near the Cavan/Fermanagh Border, as a result identifying tools whose origin was it been stolen in the UK in the previous six months.
Inspector Micheal O'Donoghue at Cavan Garda Station made an appeal for the general public in Co Cavan to remain vigilant amid this spate of increasing thefts.
“The general rule is – if you think it is suspicious – you are normally right – so just ring in the details and it will be checked out by the gardai,” Inspector O'Donoghue told The Anglo-Celt.
Inspector O'Donoghue also urged the public to note down registration numbers of suspicious vehicles if possible; a quick photo of a suspicious vehicle, including the registration number, taken on a mobile phone can prove invaluable.
He said because large items are being stolen like ride-on lawnmowers, raiders most likely use large vans to swiftly ferry them and any ill-gotten gains from scene to scene. They could also in some instances be accompanied by a scout car.
“People are making an effort to secure their tools but they are still being robbed. The locks are being cut open and many of these crimes are taking place in isolated areas with no lighting, alarms or CCTV,” said Inspector O'Donoghue.
Apart from ride-on lawnmowers, ordinary lawnmowers, strimmers, trimmers “are going like hot cakes” according to high-ranking member of the force locally.
If you have any information about any of these recent raids or suspicious vehicles in your area, day or night, please ring Cavan Garda Station immediately on (049) 43 31300.