An “operational gap” on the border is hindering policing efforts in Louth and its neighbouring counties and allowing criminal gangs to exploit shortcomings in cross-border collaboration between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI, according to Fianna Fáíl TD for Louth Declan Breathnach.
The comments come in light of the latest ATM raid in the region on Wednesday morning as a the Bank of Ireland ATM in Dunleer was targeted for the second time. Gardai pursued the culprits on the M1 but had to ultimately give up the chase when the vehicle they chased crossed the border, where they were forced to hand over to PSNI officers.
Breathnach, who is the Fianna Fáíl spokeperson on Cross Border Co-operation, has previously called for the establishment of a cross-border crime agency to stop criminals evading capture by crossing the border. He says police forces either side of the border having to end pursuits when they reach a crossing is an “operational gap” on the island of Ireland.
The Deputy believes the only solution was to set up a cross-border agency involving both forces, as well as the Revenue and the Criminal Assets Bureau.
“The Gardaí and the PSNI have a close working relationship and have some success to prove it,” he said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “But until a statutory body is created, there is nothing to stop these criminals simply driving across the border and evading arrest.”
Speaking to the Business Post in December, Breathnach spoke about the so called “hot pursuits”, saying that criminals use high speed cars to ensure escape from officers in pursuit and that they reach the border. The TD called this “a complete flouting of the law.”
It is understood that when either An Garda Siochana or the PSNI engage in a pursuit of a suspect vehicle, both control rooms are notified. Depending on which side of the border the suspects are on, that control room handles all incoming communications and co-ordinates efforts to deploy officers.
A Garda spokesperson told the Business Post; “There is a high level of cooperation between both forces in such instances and this has resulted in the detection and arrest of persons involved in such activity.”
Breathnach also called for an increase in Garda resources in Louth after Wednesday’s ATM raid, in addition to Monday’s non-fatal shooting in Drogheda town centre.
Don’t miss out. Subscribe to the Wee County Weekly today.
“Crime in Louth is simply out of control,” he said. The feud in Drogheda has led to shootings and murders becoming commonplace. We urgently need more Gardaí on the ground.
The general election candidate fears ATM services could be withdrawn across the north east with the volume of raids appearing to increase, despite heightened fears of such incidents and subsequent Garda efforts to stop the culprits.
“This is not an isolated incident, but one of the many ATM raids in the border region over the past few months. I fear now that ATM services in Dunleer and across the region will be withdrawn as the risk of a raid increases. This is a huge threat to community and businesses in the area. The vast majority of people living on both sides of the border are decent law-abiding citizens who may lose out on vital services because of the actions of these thugs.
“In the short term we may need to look at the possibility of reducing the operating hours of an ATM between midnight and the early morning. There is technology available which can turn off the ATM and automatically transfer it into a secure bunker.”