Gardai are closely monitoring wind farms after a gang tried to steal thousands of euro worth of tools, wiring and electronic equipment from a storage facility in Co Sligo.
The Traveller gang are trying to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and have identified expensive tools and other equipment at wind farms as “easy pickings”.
Some gang members have been involved in a feud and are known to gardai nationwide, even though they operate from a base in Sligo town.
“Gardai have been advised to keep a much closer eye on wind farms after the events of last week,” a senior source said.
“These are the latest comm- ercial business to be targeted by criminals during this health crisis.
“The gang were intercepted in a forest near a wind farm last week, and this led to them being identified.”
Investigations established that the gang were respon- sible for the theft of more than €23,000 worth of tools and equipment from four separate businesses in counties Sligo, Leitrim and Mayo between Monday and Wednesday of last week.
This led to a major garda search operation after the suspects were discovered near the wind farm.
“An Garda Siochana carried out a number of searches, seized two vehicles believed to have been used in the commission of a crime, recovered €17,800 worth of stolen property and seized assorted items and electronic equipment,” a garda spokesman said.
In a statement, Superintendent John Lawless, of Ballymote Garda Station, said: “Investigations are ongoing and further actions are planned as part of this operation.
“We are satisfied that we have disrupted criminal activities, which have been operating in Counties Sligo, Leitrim and Mayo.
“No arrests have been made to date. However, gardai are satisfied they have a definite line of enquiry.
“I want to reassure the public that our members are patrolling on a 24-hour basis and that our service to the public hasn’t been affected by the Covid-19 crisis.”
Sources said it is a “particular concern” that wind farms are often in isolated countryside areas.
Last week’s garda interception and follow-up search operation means there will be an increase in patrols at wind farms in many garda districts in future.