By Donal Hickey
Criminals from outside Kerry are breaking into houses around the county during Mass times and funerals, according to senior gardaí.
Chief Superintendent Pat Sullivan of Tralee has reported an 18% increase in burglaries for the six-month period to the end of March.
He said he was disappointed with the number of burglaries, which had increased from 152 to 180 in 12 months.
He pointed to cases where people were making it easier for burglars by exposing valuables in cars and leaving house windows open. People should secure their property and notify neighbours if they are going to be away from home, he added.
“People in rural areas are being targeted by organised groups from outside the county,” Chief Supt Sullivan told a meeting of the Kerry joint policing committee in Tralee.
“Considerable amounts of cash have been taken by people who are very professional and well-organised. We are aware of who they are and have specific patrols out to deal with them.”
There has been a significant hike in cases related to the handling of stolen property — up from three to 12 over the period.
Concerns were also voiced at a rise in the number of rape and sexual assault cases, up 75% and 18%, respectively. However, Chief Supt Sullivan maintained there may be an increase in the reporting of such offences.
On a positive note, there has been a 17% drop in the number of public order and drunkenness offences.
Senator Mark Daly told the meeting that criminals had “extracted” thousands of euro from street traders at Kenmare Fair last August.
He said they had demanded up to €300 from individual traders who feared they or their property would be damaged if they did not pay up. “I fear these people will strike again when major events are on here,” Mr Daly warned.
Chief Supt Sullivan said gardaí could only investigate on foot of statements of complaint to them and he urged people to report crimes so gardaí could act.