THE spectre of cross-border crime has risen its ugly head again with a number of incidents along the North/Republic frontier.
A robbery of a business on the Swanlibar Road last month – where a substantial amount of cash was stolen – with the suspect heading in a vehicle towards the south was a reminder for residents and shop-owners in the County that an age-old nightmare had not gone away.
Cllr John McClaughryJohn McClaughry, who himself is a retired policeman and current sits on the Fermanagh & Omagh branch of the Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), is familiar with this type of crime and the problems faced by both the PSNI and the Garda in trying to stamp it out.
The manner in which these criminals operate mean that both sets of police forces only have a limited time-window to apprehend the suspects before they abandon the vehicles they have stolen in order to commit their crimes.
“Cross-border crimne has traditionally been happening for quite a few years,” says Cllr McClaughry. “You have opportune criminals who steal a car, go whatever direction they can go in and wherever they can commit crime, they do it.
“It’s very difficult to counteract unless the car’s reported stolen very early and it appears on one of the cross-border monitoring systems. But even then, they sometimes swap the number-plates over with the plate of another car replacing the one on the vehicle that they have taken.
“At times, this type of crime can be like a wave through a specific area and then the criminals just go back across the border again.
“There was one incident around Derrylin recently but historically, these incidents have been happening for quite some time. There’s two types of criminal who do this. There are those who pretend to be from businesses and cold-call on houses and then there are those who just steal a car, go to a house and rob it.
“Both the PSNI and the Garda both liaise with each other and they do have some sort of taskforce as well. But the problem with these type of criminals is that if they steal a car in the early hours of the morning, they’re across the border by nine or ten o’clock when most people are away to work.
“The criminals go and do the crime knowing that those they are robbing won’t be back from work until five or six o’clock later on that evening and discover that their houses have been broken into. By that stage, those who have robbed them are already back across the border.
The PSNI stated that while Fermanagh has a history of being targeted by cross-border criminals, burglary rates are low compared to other border counties and that they are in constant co-operation with their policing counterparts in the Republic with regard to tracking down the robbers.
Chief Inspector Robert McGowan said: “Fermanagh, like all border counties, is targeted periodically by cross border mobile organised crime gangs but there have not been any recent incidents. Burglaries in the district remain low when compared with other areas.
“The Joint Cross Border Joint Area Task Force continues to focus resources in order to combat cross border crime including thefts and burglaries. Pro-active, intelligent led operations are conducted on both sides of the border.
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