Public anger rising as crime spree continues unabated
There is a palpable sense of anger in communities across south Armagh as the spree of break-ins, which has plagued towns and villages in recent weeks, appears to be continuing unabated.
A gang of men travelling in a silver Audi car has wreaked havoc across the area, breaking into homes and businesses and residents are being urged to take all possible steps to protect their property and report any suspicious activity to police.
Last Sunday (October 27th) events took a sinister turn when the gang allegedly involved in numerous robberies targeted a house close to Crossmaglen. Alerted to suspicious activity while passing by the premises, a local man attempted to apprehend the culprits, his efforts resulting in significant damage being caused to his vehicle as the gang made their escape. It was reported that one of the intruders made off from the scene on foot and subsequently dozens of locals spent hours scouring roads and fields in a bid to track down the culprit. Despite police on the scene, backed up by sniffer dogs, air support and the assistance of Gardaí, the gang managed to get away.
Taking to Facebook, the local PSNI thanked the people of Crossmaglen who assisted with the search and added: “We will continue to work hard to disrupt criminals who think that they can break into people’s houses, and take what they want; they have no regard for anyone but themselves. They may have gotten lucky this time, but we won’t stop trying our best to hunt them down!”
However, just a day later, it was reported that the same gang had returned to the area, this time travelling in a black Audi. And on Thursday evening, two homes in the Bessbrook area were broken into and robbed. A house on Mill Road was ransacked, its owner announcing on Facebook that her home had been left “in an awful state”; while the other break-in occurred on the Green Road.
A black Audi bearing an English registration plate was seen in the area and was later reported spotted in Culloville.
Independent Councillor Gavin Malone condemned the Bessbrook robberies and revealed that a substantial sum of money was stolen in one of the incidents. He called on everyone to “protect each other” saying, “It is now happening every day and no one feels safe. This is not the society that anyone wants to live in. We now need to protect each other and watch out for our neighbours more than ever.”
Following news of the break-ins, police took to Facebook, announcing an “urgent appeal” that officers in Newry and South Armagh were dealing with reports of burglaries across the district.
“We believe that the suspects of these burglaries may be travelling in a black Audi A4 vehicle with an English registration plate. We would ask all residents to be vigilant for any suspicious activity around their homes or neighbours and should you notice this type of vehicle acting unusually around your area or if you have any concerns or suspicions that these burglars may be in your area to please contact us on 101 quoting reference 2037 of 31/10/19,” the post read.
Another post on Friday again appealed for information on a black Audi, this time it had been spotted acting suspiciously in the Loughbrickland area on Halloween night.
Announcing that the PSNI is actively investigating burglaries in the wider south Armagh and Newry areas, local police appealed to anyone who noticed “a black Audi saloon vehicle with four or five men onboard in the Loughbrickland area between 6pm and 9.30pm on October 31st. We’re particularly interested in those who are targeting homeowners, and continue to work with our Garda collegues to prevent burglaries and to bring those responsible before the courts”.
Later on Friday evening a major police reported at a Traveller halting site at Cloghogue.
Police said this was a “planned search” and revealed officers seized two caravans from the site. A 34-year-old woman was arrested and later released on bail.
A police spokesperson said: “On Friday, 1 November police carried out a planned search in the Cloghoge area of Newry.
“A 34 year old woman was arrested and later released on bail pending further police enquiries. Two caravans were also seized during this search.
“There are no further details at this stage.“
As a result of the recent upsurge in burglaries, Sinn Fein Councillor for the Slieve Gullion area, Roisin Mulgrew, says she is meeting with the PSNI “as a matter of urgency” to seek assurances that police are “fully focused” on apprehending those responsible for the robberies.
Commenting after the break-ins in Bessbrook on Thursday evening, Councillor Mulgrew said: “Two homes in the Green Road and Bessbrook have been broken into, robbed and ransacked. They are the most recent in this ongoing spate of such crimes throughout the area.
“Those who have carried this out are criminals who care nothing about their victims and the hurt they are inflicting on them and their families. Those engaged in these attacks on our families, neighbours and friends’ homes and properties need to be apprehended.”
Mrs Mulgrew claims there is a general feeling within the area that the thieves “are acting without fear…robbing where and when they want”.
“I will be meeting with the PSNI as a matter of urgency to seek assurances that their officers and resources are focused on tackling and apprehending these criminal gangs. We as a community can and must play our part by being vigilant and alert to suspicious behaviour and reporting any such activities to the police. Ultimately it is the police that must stop them.”