A GARDA helicopter swooped into Stradbally to assist a search following the discovery of a van containing a large quantity of stolen telephone cables.
The newly-established divisional garda task force was on routine patrol last Thursday night when it got reports of suspicious activity in the Rathmore area.
The development followed reports about the theft of substantial lengths of copper eir cables from a number of areas. At about 9.50pm, the task force went to Rathmore after getting reports of a van and a number of occupants acting suspiciously.
The van was found abandoned in a field and proved to contain more than 1km of copper eir cables. There was no trace of the driver and other occupants. The vehicle and property were seized and the garda helicopter was called in to assist the ground search, as the task force tried to track down the suspects. No arrests have been made but gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry.
The incident follows an increase in the theft of copper over the past few weeks, which included removal of phone lines along rural roadsides under cover of darkness. The criminals involved are targeting the small quantity of copper contained in the cabling.
The thefts were highlighted at last week’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) in county hall by cllr Tom Mulhall, who pointed out that homeowners in the Vicarstown, Stradbally and Rock of Dunamaise areas were among those left without telephone coverage for weeks, since cables were blown down in Storm Ophelia. He told the meeting: “The eircom wires were blown down in the storm and then they were snipped away by thieves.”
The new divisional task force, containing a sergeant and eight gardaí, was established this month to target roving criminal gangs in Laois-Offaly.
There has also been an increase in the theft of copper cylinders and piping from vacant houses and other premises. Gardaí are warning people to ensure that vacant properties are secured well and to remove copper items if the property is to be left vacant for indefinite periods.