Organised Crime Unit hopes to disband gangs with a year
THE Organised Crime Unit hopes to disband the three biggest gangs in Ireland within the next 12 months, the Sunday Tribune has learned.
The unit, which Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy made a full-time specialist task force to tackle gang-related crime in January, is monitoring between 12 and 15 serious gangs operating in Ireland.
"Unfortunately, we have a number of serious gangs operating in Ireland, " said a senior source from the unit. "There are about 12 to 15 involved in either the drugs trade, cash-intransit robberies or feuding.
Often they are involved in all three. Our job is to build up a profile of who the main players are. Within each gang, there are five or six guys in the top echelons."
The task force, established in 2005 to tackle gangs and their criminal activity, broke up Dublin crime boss Martin 'Marlo' Hyland's gang in 2006.
Hyland was in charge of a loosely-connected gang of up to 30 associates, with addresses at Finglas, Ballymun, Blanchardstown, Coolock, Dunshaughlin, Clonshaugh, Ratoath, Skerries, Walkinstown, Ballyfermot, the north inner city, Cabra and Navan.
He was shot dead in December 2006 and former associates have been linked to his murder.
"We had great success with dismantling Hyland's crime gang and have had a number of successful prosecutions.
Under Operation Oak, we got some of the lower-ranking guys in his gang out of the picture and that led us to the bigger players because they had to get involved in the work that would usually be done by less important gang members.
Within the next 12 months we would hope to dismantle the three biggest gangs in the country in a similar way to Hyland's gang, " the source said.
The three most significant gangs involved in feuding are in Limerick, Crumlin and Drimnagh and Sheriff Street in Dublin.
"At the moment, gangs in those areas are most involved in feuding. But that could change within a matter of months. Our work is intelligence-based from a number of different sources. In Crumlin, we recently stopped a wellknown criminal with a Glock and two grenades. Each gang we monitor is given an operational name. We develop surveillance of them in a number of ways, " he said.
The Sheriff Street feud erupted nine days ago with the murder of Anthony Russell, 30, who was shot dead as he sat drinking in the Ardlea Inn in Artane.
The two gangs in the areas were once associates but their drugs and armed robbery gang split when its leader, Christy Griffin, was accused four years ago of raping his stepdaughter. Griffin, 38, originally from Canon Lillis Avenue, Dublin 1, is serving a life sentence for those rapes.
The killing raised fears that the feud, which had been relatively calm in recent months compared with 2006, has now significantly escalated.
A major challenge for the organised crime unit is that gangs are becoming sophisticated in identifying how undercover gardai are operating and monitoring them.
"They are meeting each other in court and swapping stories about how not to get caught. They are becoming aware of our methodologies.
They are also learning from there subversives. It's just another challenge for us.
Another challenge is the availability of guns and criminals' easy access to them. They are often thrown in with drugs shipments. All of the gangs we are monitoring are dangerous. A feud can often be sparked by a simple thing like one guy giving another guy's mother abuse. Often they do it to raise the tempo. They are getting younger and more violent."
The growing use of pipe bombs by criminals is also of major concern.
"It's a new departure.
They're easy and cheap to make and criminals are increasingly using them. But there are many devices seized by gardai before they're used.
We are now targeting pipe bomb-making."
April 27, 2008