Gone in 15 minutes — Home heating oil thieves are becoming professional, warns top cop

Thefts of home heating oil have increased significantly in the last four to six weeks with the culprits becoming so professional that 1,000 litres of oil can be stolen in just 15 minutes.

Chief Superintendent for the Galway division, Tom Curley, gave the warning at Monday’s meeting of the County Galway Joint Policing Committee while outlining the crime figures for the county between January 1 and December 31, 2013.

While there were figures for thefts from an MPV (195 incidents ), thefts from a person (21 incidents ) usually involving “sneak thefts” of mobile phones and purses, thefts from a shop (202 incidents ), the number of ‘other’ thefts came to 457 incidents, many of which involved the theft of home heating oil. Chief Supt Curley warned that householders need to be more alert as the number of incidents has peaked in the last few weeks and the thieves have become very professional, travelling around in large vans with siphoning equipment.

Chief Supt Curley also warned that householders in rural areas are making it much easier for burglaries to occur as they are not heeding advice to properly lock windows and doors. The Garda report showed how the number of burglaries last year in rural areas came to 419, representing a decrease of 17 per cent on previous figures.

The total number of crime incidents in rural County Galway during 2013 decreased by 16 per cent to 6,992. Outgoing JPC chairman, Cllr Peter Roche, commended the gardai for their “intelligence led” detection adding that it was proof the public had “little to fear” by the closures of rural Garda stations.

When it came to drug seizures for the year €3,284,150 worth was for cannabis, due to the high number of grow houses scattered throughout the county, a situation which according to Chief Supt Curley is becoming more prevalent in rural Ireland with culprits using isolated houses. There was €25,160 worth of cocaine, €23,450 worth of heroin, and €5,300 worth of ecstasy seized in 2013.

The number of road accident fatalities on the county’s roads between January 1 and December 31, 2013, came to 13, representing a decrease of 13 per cent on previous figures. Drink driving detections came to 244, an increase of one per cent. A total of 4,282 mandatory alcohol test checkpoints were held, an increase of 46 per cent, and 25,636 breath tests were performed, an increase of 35 per cent.

Chief Supt Curley told JPC members that in the last few months there had been a noticeable increase in the number of drink driving detections, with 66 in November last year alone, 46 in December, and 13 this month. He warned that more and more incidents involve the 21 to 23 age category “who seem to be getting into the habit” of drink driving.

Cllr Jimmy McClearn commended the gardai on their efforts as “Galway is a huge county” to cover. “The gardai have been very successful in the amount of checkpoints and breath tests being conducted. I’m sure there are a lot of families who are not in mourning because of the actions taken,” he said.

The Garda report showed that there were 368 incidents of public order offences (a reduction of 38 per cent ), 45 incidents of assault causing harm (a reduction of 45 per cent ), 247 incidents of minor assault (a reduction of two per cent ), and 48 incidents of breach of barring order, safety order, and protection order (an increase of four per cent ). Regarding an increase in domestic violence Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh called for groups such as the Rape Crisis Centre to be invited to give a presentation on the situation. This was seconded by Cllr Malachy Noone, who was later voted as the new chair of the JPC.

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