Leading criminals living in some of Co Longford’s largest towns are to come under ever greater scrutiny following the setting up of a pioneering garda operation, writes Liam Cosgrove.
Operation Rebus, introduced by senior garda chiefs in north Longford since March, plans to target key drug dealers by using both unifirm and plain-clothed officers in the fight against organised crime.
Designated teams, armed with the task of carrying out detailed surveillance duties, have so far managed to identify known suspects, leading to a string of raids in recent weeks.
The Leader has learned specialist officers from Granard Garda Station have drawn up a shortlist of over 20 known criminals, all of whom have been openly targeted over the past eight weeks.
Rolled out by Superintendent Ian Lackey and Sgt Lionel Mullally, officers received thorough training on anti-gangland legislation in a bid to bring charges against prime targets.
So far the results have proved effective with several arrests leading to cases currently before the courts.
One high profile drug dealer, with a previous conviction for robbery also to his name, has already been convicted of heroin possession and arrested twice for suspected drug driving offences.
The operation, which involves a relatively small team of five officers, is also focusing on the steadying rise in cannabis grow houses.
Two of those, as reported by this newspaper in recent weeks, have fallen under that investigation with two makeshift factories, cannabis plants and heroin being uncovered.
In a seperate incident, a convicted criminal, who escaped from Cavan’s Loughan House, was arrested by Granard officers hours after his escape was first reported. He has since been sentenced to a further six months in prison.
Since the crackdown, as many as 13 suspects are currently awaiting the outcome of their court hearings, while several others have changed address due to increased garda activity. A large percentage of those have Longford addresses with some hailing from Cavan and Eastern Europe.
Such has been its success, the operation has been likened to that of the ‘Mockies’, the groundbreaking garda unit which tackled drug dealing on the streets of Dublin during the 1980s.
“We have been delighted with how it (Operation Rebus) has gone so far,” said Sgt Lionel Mullally. “Both myself and the Super (Supt Ian Lackey) are pleased with the dedication that our members have shown because they have come in during their days off and worked very hard.”
As that operation continues apace, garda chiefs have compiled a ‘top ten’ most wanted list of criminals linked to thefts from commercial buildings, farms and scrapyards across the county.
Last Wednesday, under the workings of ‘Operation Aimsir’, a man in his early 40s was arrested following the recovery of up to €80,000 in suspected stolen machinery from a premises in Northern Ireland.
Gardai arrested the man as he made his way through Edgeworthstown before the owner of the items even knew they were stolen.
The man, detained for questioning at Granard Garda Station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, was charged with road traffic offences. A file is to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions concerning the other aspect of the enquiry.