A GANG of criminals operating in the Larne area will ”go to any lengths” to steal firearms, a senior police officer has warned.
As concern grows over what he described as ”a massive spike””in crime throughout the borough’s rural areas, Inspector Noel Rogan revealed the worrying development that properties where legally-held firearms are kept are among those being targeted.
And he outlined that thieves who raided a farm recently went equipped to remove a strong gun storage cabinet that had been bolted on to a wall.
Insp Rogan suggested that particular properties could be on the thieves’ hit list as a result of information obtained through gun clubs.
He warned: “The thieves will go to any lengths to remove firearms, so anyone who has any really has to listen to advice. There have been crimes where we have given detailed advice and it has not been acted on and people have been attacked.
”If we are telling you that you need to do something to prevent this, please act on it,” Larne’s senior PSNI officer urged local gun owners.
Answering queries from members of Larne District Policing Partnership at their most recent public meeting, Insp Rogan said that none of the firearms stolen in recent incidents had been recovered.
He added that there was a concerted drive by police to bring those responsible for rural crime to justice.
The Larne Times has learned that in a three-day period (November 7-9) there were seven reported incidents of theft and burglary in rural areas. As well two separate firearms thefts at Magheramorne and Gleno, intruders also got away with two tractors near Ballycarry; diesel at Ballyboley; and chainsaws, gardening equipment and a trailer from premises in Glynn and Gleno.
Councillor Gregg McKeen told the DPP there was a lack of confidence among rural residents and asked if police were doing enough at night to try to prevent such crimes. Insp Rogan replied that stop-and-search operations were continuing and said he believed that it was only a matter of time before the criminals were caught.
He added: “They may get away with it one night, but they are always caught. More and more people are aware their farms are being targeted. More vehicles are being seen and more information is coming in. It will just take hard work and support.”
Independent DPP member Crawford Wilson said it was a traumatic experience for anyone to suffer a crime and asked what support was available for victims. Insp Rogan admitted that sometimes victims did not always get the feedback they should from police, but that officers do refer to Victim Support.
Insp Rogan told the Larne Times that the spike in rural crime can be tackled with public support. He said: “We take such crimes seriously and can reassure the public that we are actively investigating these incidents.”
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Insp Rogan added: “Rural crime is tackled successfully when everyone – police, the rural community, elected representatives – works alongside each other. We understand the effect these crimes have on the communities and the grave impact they can have on livelihoods.
“We continue to urge people to immediately report anything untoward in their neighbourhoods, unknown vehicles outside premises or on neighbouring land, and note down any important details such as a description or vehicle registration and call police immediately. We follow up all calls and there is every possibility that prompt information could prevent a crime.”
The inspector advised: “Criminals are always on the lookout for valuable items that they can easily re-sell, and this is why homeowners must take crime prevention steps to limit the number of opportunities for thefts to occur in the home and out buildings.
“Simple steps like ensuring doors, windows and sheds are locked will reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime. Invest in security features for your fuel tanks such as lockable fuel caps and sensor lighting coverage. Your local crime prevention officer is available to offer detailed security advice and guidance - telephone 0845 600 8000.”
Firearms owners were urged to ensure that all guns are stored safely and securely.
“Owners should secure all their firearms and ammunition in approved gun cabinets that have been manufactured to the correct standard,” said Insp Rogan.
“Considerable thought also needs to be given to the appropriateness of its location. For added security, rooms where firearms are being stored should also be fitted with alarm sensors. Keys to gun cabinets should be kept in a secure place, without a label, and away from the cabinet,” he added.
Insp Noel Rogan encouraged rural dwellers to get involved in the Larne Farm Watch Scheme. He said: ”Two-way communication with local people helps police to quickly identify emerging crime trends, to offer appropriate crime prevention advice and to adjust patrolling patterns to deter and detect offenders. To find out more about the scheme, please contact Sergeant Colin Skinner at Larne PSNI on 0845 600 8000.”
Larne police are currently working with the local DPP and Ulster Farmers’ Union to run a rural crime advice surgery in Larne next month. The event will facilitate free trailer marking, bicycle marking and crime prevention specialists will be on hand to offer advice and guidance. Details are to be announced soon, said the PSNI.