THE property marking initiative is a huge help in recovering stolen items, West Cork’s crime prevention officer Sgt Ian O’Callaghan said recently.
Explaining the scheme to a gathering at a Community Alert meeting in Caheragh, Sgt O’Callaghan said the gardaí recover over €11m of stolen property every year.
Returning the property to the owner is a huge problem for the gardaí, he said, and the property marking scheme is a huge help in that.
‘Give your son, daughter or grandchild the task of photographing your property with their smartphone,’ he said.
The website theftstop.ie, a joint initiative between the IFA and the gardaí, is free to register on, and a great help for monitoring property, he said.
‘For a small fee you can get stencilling equipment to allow you to mark your items which will make them less attractive to criminals,’ he explained.
He also suggested signage for entrance gates. ‘Let criminals know that you are serious about your security,’ he said. He also added that alarms on houses made them much less attractive to criminals. Very few homes in West Cork with alarms fitted had been targets in recent years, he said. He added that very often it is not the monetary effects that cause problems for homeowners, but the long-term psychological effects, which last for months and sometimes years.
‘I have seen people afraid to return to their homes, especially the elderly,’ said Sgt O’Callaghan. ‘They suffer anxiety, panic attacks, and they often hear noises in the house which weren’t there before. For some of them, the house will never feel the same again,’ he said.
‘I have seen homes with unlocked doors, sheds with no locks, and buildings with thousands of euro worth of property, without even a door in front of them. These criminals will have their homework done in many instances before they carry out the crimes,’ he said.
That is why recognising unusual cars entering an area is very important. It may help to prevent a crime from taking place at a later time, he pointed out.
Very often these criminals will find an excuse to go into farmyards or other properties, looking for directions or to buy or sell something. They are in fact checking out the farm or the property, he said.
Even if you don’t get the full details of the car, any bit of information might help. The colour, make, or model of the car is all part of being proactive in reporting suspicious vehicles and it may stop them coming back another time. Sgt O’Callaghan said that criminals who feel an area is proactive in watching who is coming in and out will be less inclined to target that area.
He also commented on the huge success of the CCTV system in West Cork towns. ‘We had a boy racer problem in Skibbereen and when we installed the CCTV system, it stopped practically overnight,’ he said. He also said that the CCTV in Clonakilty had followed one particular suspect from the place he had committed a burglary, right into the place where he was staying.
Assault and public order incidents are also down as a result of the CCTV system and incidences of criminal damage have also been greatly reduced.
The rear kitchen window was the most likely place where a criminal would enter a house, he added.
Although the recent tragic case in Waterford had made a lot of elderly people very nervous, Sgt O’Callaghan explained that incidences of aggravated burglary – where violence is used – are very rare in West Cork, thankfully.
Statistically, West Cork is one of the safest divisions in the country, he said, adding: ‘let’s keep it that way.’
He also reminded homeowners that the first place in a house that most burglars will go to is the bedroom because that is very often where the cash and the jewellery is kept.
Luckily, the days of the burglar getting away with over €100,000 in cash from the family home are more or less gone, he said, because homeowners have got the message that keeping cash at home is not a good idea.
If you want to know the profile of the most likely person to be burgled it is the elderly bachelor, he added.
With the summer around the corner, the garda reminded homeowners to keep garages and sheds locked and secure. This is the season when there is an increase in the theft of lawnmowers, strimmers and other garden equipment, he noted.
Garda Ambrose Whitty from Drimoleague garda station said that he hoped the public would pick up the phone and give the gardaí any information regarding suspicious activity which they could give in confidence to the local gardaí.
Garda Bridget Hartnett from Bantry garda station said that, along with Gda Whitty, she had visited many schools in the area to give them advice on internet safety.
She said that if any parents needed to get advice from the gardaí, they were more than willing to help.
Regarding help for the elderly, she also displayed the ‘Message in a Bottle’ device, which allows a homeowner’s allergies and medical details to be written on paper which is then located in a well-marked bottle.
A sticker inside the front door alerts the emergency services to the existence of the bottle which is left in the fridge at all times.
She also displayed another item which allows the homeowner to include details of any pets that may be living with them, in case of emergency.