From a Crime Prevention perspective, Covid-19 has done more to reduce and prevent criminal activity in Ireland than any of us could have possibly imagined.
Crimes against the person had greatly reduced in March and April 2020 because the vast majority of us stayed at home. Signs of occupancy have always been one of the best preventative measures for domestic burglary.
However crime doesn’t go away and it would be naive to think that we didn’t see certain crimes persist over the past few months.
In Laois, Offaly and Kildare we have had great success in detecting and seizing illegal drugs. We have also recovered stolen property in this period also.
One particular crime type that persisted was thefts from cars. This type of crime includes thefts of tools from vans etc and also the theft of catalytic convertors. Some property stolen from cars was recovered.
In the period from mid-March 2020 to early May 2020 we have seen nearly 60 incidents of theft of personal effects from cars parked in the driveway, on the street outside the home or in car parks at apartment complexes.
At a time when we are all working together to get through this crises there are still opportunities for criminals which are entirely preventable.
Most people would generally assume that when we speak of Crime Prevention they automatically think of alarms, locks, CCTV and other electronic and technical equipment.
Very rarely do they think that real beneficial Crime Prevention involves a change of habits, routines and mindsets. This costs nothing. Crime Prevention that doesn’t mean spending money.
When we look at the thefts from cars that occurred in Laois, Offaly and Kildare over the last 10 weeks and delve into the time frame, property stolen and what we could be doing to reduce the opportunity, we will see how easy it is to stop certain criminal activity. We no longer live in a society that we can leave doors open or our personal effects freely accessible to passersby unfortunately.
All of the reported thefts from cars occurred overnight with nationally the statistics showing 11pm to 7am is the risk period with over 50% occurring in this time frame. The other 50% is scattered between 7am to 11pm.
The vast majority of the thefts from cars occurring within our Division involved the theft of wallets, handbags, sunglasses, watches, cash, coins, phones, music equipment, clothes, bankcards and tools.
Unfortunately the other feature is that the vast majority of thefts from cars involved unlocked/ unsecured cars.
Nationally when we looked at this type of crime we saw the following.
In the first five months of 2020 Gardaí are investigating over 3300 thefts from vehicles. The loss to the victims of these crimes is valued at over €1.6 million worth of property stolen.
Over 630 handbags and wallets stolen with cash to value of €205,000 stolen. We have also seen tools to the value of over €415,000 stolen, at a time when most trades were not working.
We did see that these type of incidents have dropped by 35% in March and April 2020 due to one key fact - the vast majority of us are working from home. However we still saw that over 1,200 occurred nationally.
As we progress through the Phases of Covid 19 - and hopefully if we all work together we will get to Phase 5 by August - I would anticipate that the incidents of thefts from vehicles increase as they generally do in the summer months. Now is the time to pause and think about where I am travelling and do I need to bring certain items of property with me, and if I do can I carry them with me when I park the car. Leaving items visible in the car is an opportunity for the criminal.
Now is the time to try to prevent this happening to you. This Crime Prevention advice will cost you nothing.
How do we reduce theft?
Theft of property from vehicles can only occur if:
* There is a motivated thief present at the scene
* There is property, as described above, either in or on the vehicle
* There is an opportunity to commit the theft
We can therefore reduce our chances of becoming a victim if we minimise the availability of property worth stealing or do something to make it less attractive to the thief or more difficult to take and do something about reducing the opportunity to commit the theft.
I would ask that wherever you park your car or van, take your property with you. Ensure your car is locked, alarmed and parked in a safe location, and in order to avoid a fishing of the cars keys through the letterbox so your car can be stolen, ensure that you store your keys safely, away from windows and letterboxes
An Garda Síochána runs a campaign to park smart with the following advice.
We ask all vehicle owners to ensure they lock their vehicle no matter where it is parked. Do not store valuables in the car, but if you do have to, keep them out of sight.
Wherever you park your car or van, we would always advise you to take your property with you and ensure the vehicle is locked, alarmed and parked in a secure, well-lit location.
Sometimes it is impractical to remove tools and equipment from vehicles. In these cases, owners should take extra steps to ensure the safety of their property. Additional locking mechanisms to vehicles should be fitted. Consider a monitored vehicle alarm and tracking devices for valuable property. Reduce the payoff to the thief by marking and photographing the property and take a record of serial numbers, makes and models. Download the household property register for free from the Garda Website for your records.
Next month we will look at crime prevention advice regarding burglary domestically and at commercial locations.
On that note I would advise business owners to consider checking their premises regularly especially if they have been closed and are to remain closed until the subsequent phases of Covid 19 guidelines.
Sgt Graham Kavanagh is the Garda Crime Prevention Officer for Laois/Offaly/Kildare