Tips for victims of theft while travelling –, April 15 2018

There was a time, 10 months into the trip of the lifetime, I sat in Kuala Lumpur (KL) munching on steaming chapati (Indian flatbread) with friends, uttering famous last words, “Nothing has gone wrong yet.” It was true. Besides the odd dodgy stomach – which was inevitable considering I’d just exposed my Irish belly to rich, spicy foods for the first time – our travels around Southeast Asia had run completely smoothly.

It wouldn’t be long before I was no longer eating delicious Indian food, but instead, eating my words. That same evening, I was deep in conversation with a friend in the city when a guy on a bike swerved in behind me, yanked my bag from my shoulder, and sped away before I even had a chance to yell out an expletive.

My phone, money, and bank card had been taken before my own eyes, along with some sentimental items such as a bracelet from two friends in Vietnam. I’m sure you can imagine the kaleidoscope of colourful language that came from my mouth in the following few minutes. As much as I endeavour to become a crime-fighting queen who rids the world of handbag theft, I realise this is unachievable. However, I can offer a few titbits of advice for those who find themselves in the same situation.

Accept it

Regardless of how little cash you had in your purse or how dishevelled your phone is, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get your stuff back. A thief won’t feel a sudden tinge of regret and return your items to you, and chasing somebody down could be dangerous. Take the few minutes you need to vent that anger; cry, swear, scream, whatever you need. After that, accept that your things are gone and get on with your travels. Losing things, regardless of how sentimental or valuable, is not the worst case scenario. Your own safety is key.

File a police report

Telling my hotel receptionist that I’d become a victim of snatch theft, I was met with little more than a shrug of the shoulders. They told me not to bother reporting the event to the police, which, considering I had very little details on the thief, made sense. I also had to catch a bus soon after and knew that I had a roomful of clothes to shove into a backpack before getting on the road.

However, I later learned that reporting could have proven beneficial. I had taken travel insurance in my home country and upon informing the company of the incident, was told that they could offer compensation only if I had a police report. Too late! I was already in the Cameron Highlands eating away my sorrows with scones and strawberries.

Cancel everything

After my 10-minute temper tantrum, the first thing I did was contact my bank and cancel my card. This may sound obvious, but it’s a task that’s easily forgotten when emotions are running high. I also alerted my network provider about my phone and noted down any other cards that I’d need to replace when I returned home.

Don’t let it ruin your trip

I certainly had plenty of “woe-is-me” moments as I went through the tedious task of cancelling cards and forking out good money for a new phone. However, though the enviable Instagram posts don’t show it, petty theft is unfortunately quite a common part of travelling; just like food poisoning, jellyfish stings and bike accidents. That’s not to say it’s acceptable, but if you do fall victim to theft, do what you have to do and get back to your travels.

With only a few weeks of my adventure left, I decided not to let this experience ruin my trip. It’s also important not to let such an event taint your impression of a place. Bag theft is probably just as likely to happen in my home city. Every other experience I had in KL and Malaysia overall was fantastic and there was no way one person was going to tarnish my love for the country.

Be prepared

Hindsight is a great thing, and I don’t want to sound like a lecturing aunty. However, in order to prevent becoming the victim of theft, I recommend you learn from my mistakes. Here are some tips on how you can be more mindful wherever you are:

  • Try to remain alert of what is going on around you when walking about a new city at night.
  • Don’t walk with your handbag facing the road as this will make it easier for a driver to snatch it.
  • If your bag has a long shoulder strap, make sure it hangs across your body and is underneath your clothes (like a jacket) if possible. Otherwise, it’s quite easy for somebody to grab it or cut it loose.
  • Never flash cash or valuables in a public place and avoid bringing out unnecessary items such as passports.
  • Finally, have an emergency bank card in your backpack if you can. This will be a saviour if your main one is stolen.

(First published on on April 15 2018. Available online at:


New figures show an overall drop in crime in Wexford but drugs are still on the rise – Gorey Guardian, September 17 2016

The rate of burglaries, theft and criminal damage in Wexford have gone down while possession, sale and cultivation of drugs are on the rise according to new crime figures for the county.

The figures, which were announced at the recent Joint Policing Committee Meeting, include all incidents recorded in Wexford from January 1 until September 5 of this year.

Possession of drugs for personal consumption saw a 60 per cent jump compared to the same period last year, rising from 118 in 2015 to 189. Possession for sale and supply also rose by 40 per cent, with 37 recorded incidents last year compared to 52 this year. Meanwhile, cultivation of drugs saw a 275 per cent increase, with 15 recorded cases this year compared to three in 2015.

Property crime reduced by 31 per cent compared to this time last year, dropping from 1874 to 1292. Burglaries dropped by 53 per cent, from 702 to 330.

Chief Superintendent John Roche welcomed the 22 per cent reduction in car theft, saying that this is a crime that usually spikes during the summer months. The figures show 147 cases this year, compared to 189 last year.

Meanwhile, shop theft dropped by one per cent, from 335 cases to 331. Other incidents of theft dropped by 31 per cent, from 507 to 356. Criminal damage saw a reduction of 20 per cent, with figures showing 445 incidents this year compared to 555 last year.

Public order offences have increased by 11 per cent, with 359 cases this year compared to 325 in the same period last year. Supt Roche said that this may be down to an improvement in the economy and subsequent increase in the number of people out socialising. Crimes against the person fell by 2 per cent, from 298 to 289 this year.

Figures for road traffic crimes showed incidents that have occurred between January and July. During this period, there were two fatalities on Wexford roads compared to three in the same period last year. Mobile phone usage while driving has increased by 2 per cent, from 631 to 652. The number of people caught not wearing a seatbelt has increased by 17 per cent, with 347 cases this year compared to 296 in the same period in 2015. Intercepted speeding incidents have risen by 42 per cent from 672 to 471, while non-intercepted speeding crimes dropped by 28 per cent from 3430 last year compared with 2421.

Supt Roche said that he was glad to report the overall fall in crime. He credited their anti-crime initiative for the reduction, saying that it incorporates four pillars to tackle crime.

‘The divisional crime task force have done intensive work with ten hour shifts and analysed when burglaries were happening. We have rotated them every few months,’ he explained, saying that the biggest reduction in these crimes has been seen in Gorey and Riverchapel.

Supt Roche said that the second pillar involved reducing the fear of crime in communities.

‘There is a perception that crime is increasing but the figures tell a different story.’

Making roads difficult for criminals to use is another of the pillars, and Supt Roche said that the Gardaí know every make, colour and reg of criminals in the county. He said that, with the majority of criminals not taxing and insuring their car, the Gardaí are able to seize an average of 50 cars a month under the Road Traffic Act.

Drug enforcement is the fourth area that Supt Roche said they are working on.

Cllr Ger Carthy welcomed the reduction in crime but asked whether the reduction was due to the fact that some criminals here in prison or because of an increase in policing in the county. Supt Roche said that it is a combination of both.

‘We work closely with the judicial system,’ he added. ‘We rely heavily on the curfew system with the help of judiciaries.’

(First published in the Gorey Guardian newspaper: print edition. Also available online at:

Enniscorthy gardai seize €40,000 worth of drugs in Bunclody apartment – Enniscorthy Guardian, August 6 2016

An estimated €40,000 worth of cannabis and amphetamines were seized during a raid on a growhouse at a Bunclody apartment on Thursday of last week.

The haul, which comprised of an estimated €20,000 worth of cannabis plants and €20,000 of suspected amphetamines, were uncovered during a search carried out by the District Drugs Team assisted by the Local Task Force Unit. A male in his twenties was arrested on suspicion of the sale and supply of drugs and is expected to appear before the court at a later date.

Gardaí said the drugs had an estimated street value of €40,000, subject to analysis.

Enniscorthy Gardaí also seized what was described as a small amount of cocaine at a house in an estate in Enniscorthy town on Saturday.

Gardaí and the local drugs unit carried out a search at the home where they uncovered the drugs, which have an estimated street value of between €50 and €300. Files concerning five suspects are being prepared for the DPP.

(First published in the Enniscorthy Guardian newspaper: print edition. Also available online at:

He said: ‘you’re coming with us’ – Wexford People, July 9 2016

Gardaí are currently appealing for witnesses following an attempted child abduction by a masked man and another person in Maudlintown on Sunday evening.

The incident occurred at approximately 7.15 p.m. on Sunday evening when a seven-year-old child and his brother were coming home from Maudlintown playground. Two men, one of whom was reportedly wearing a hat and a mask, are said to have approached the boy, who had walked ahead of the other children and was outside Maudlintown Community Centre. They reportedly grabbed the child’s hand and attempted to cover his face before telling him ‘you’re coming with us’. The child scraped his hand off a wall but managed to escape after he kicked one of the men and ran home. The two men were then seen by the child’s brother, who said they returned to a white van on Edenvale Avenue and drove away.

Speaking to this newspaper, the mother of the child, who wished to remain anonymous, described her reaction when her son came home.

‘I thought another child had done something to him when I saw all of the blood on his hand but then he told me that it wasn’t a child, it was a grown up,’ she said.

‘I was in total shock in first; in fact I still am. When I talk about it I wonder if it is really happening. I feel like I am talking about someone else. You read about these things in magazines and see it on the television but things like this don’t happen in Wexford town.’

‘He wasn’t even in the playground. He was only a minute away from his house.’

The mother reported the incident to the Gardaí, who she said arrived at her house the following morning.

According to the mother, her two sons go to the playground every day and this is the first time that any such incident has happened.

Despite this, she said she is constantly warning her children about the importance of personal safety and not talking to strangers.

‘I am always drilling it into him about strangers and about how there are people out there who could take him. I always tell him to just give them a kick but I never thought something like this would actually happen,’ she said. ‘I told him he was a very brave boy for doing what he did.’

Since the incident, the mother said she is trying to act as normal as possible.

‘I’m trying not to think about the what ifs because if I do, I’ll end up driving myself mental. I’m just happy that I have him. I was lucky. I think somebody was looking down on him,’ she said.

Though she said she doesn’t want to scare her young son, the mother said she wants to warn other parents about the incident.

‘I want the story out there so that people are aware that these people are out there,’ said the mother.

Sergeant Brendan Costello of Wexford Garda Station confirmed that the incident was reported to the Gardaí on Sunday and said that they are taking it seriously.

‘Inquiries are being carried out. We are appealing for witnesses and would appreciate their help,’ he said. ‘It’s a sensitive issue so we can’t say much more.’

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at:

‘We need a new community garda… and fast!’ – Wicklow People, May 7 2016

The failure to appoint a new community Garda in east Wicklow since January is having a ‘significant impact’ on the local area according to Cllr John Snell.

Community Garda for Wicklow town, Rathnew and environs Marco de Luca was relocated to Garda Headquarters in January and the position has yet to be filled. Cllr Snell said that his departure has left a ‘huge void’ in the area.

‘The impact is significant, particularly on the ground. There is no link between the young people and An Garda Siochana,’ he said. ‘My main gripe is that people are saying crime doesn’t pay but unfortunately, this is not ringing true. People are seeing those involved in crime and drugs and the profits that are to be made. We need people on the ground highlighting the fact that we don’t want people getting involved with drugs and antisocial behaviour.’

Cllr Snell went on to say that interaction between the Gardai and the local community has proven to be very beneficial to all in the past.

‘People will wonder what difference one person makes. But even the sheer fact of having somebody who is going in to speak to local kids has a huge benefit for everyone,’ he said. ‘The only time when young people will see the Gardai now is when they come across them in a Garda car and in my opinion, it’s too late then.’

According to Cllr Snell, the drugs problem in the east Wicklow area is a worsening issue and he feels that interaction between the guards and the community is vital in order to tackle it.

‘I can say without fear of contradiction that the drug problem is escalating and getting to a point that there is a certain acceptance. That level of acceptance is unacceptable when you have people thinking it is ok to be in possession of drugs,’ he said. ‘Anybody who knows anything realises that it is a huge issue in the area and it is getting worse.’

Cllr Snell said that he has been in touch with local community groups asking them to write letters calling for the urgent appointment of a new community Garda.

When contacted about the empty position, Superintendent Paul Hogan said that the position was to be filled ‘at some stage’ but ‘not in the immediate future’ due to a lack of personnel.

‘We are very aware of the situation,’ he said. ‘We also have to go through an interview process so that would delay the process a bit.’

Supt Hogan said that interviews for the position had not yet commenced. When asked whether the lack of community Garda was having an effect on their work, he said: ‘We don’t have the capacity to do all of the things that we would like to do. We have other gardai filling in for the school visits.’

‘We are not running the transition year programmes at the moment. Front line policing has to take priority.’

Supt Hogan said that they try to meet all of their commitments in the area. He said that the main things affected by the lack of a community garda are crime prevention exercises.

‘We do have other members filling in but nobody has the full-time position,’ he said.

(First published in the Wicklow People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at:

Gardai investigate attempted shooting – Bray People, April 23 2016

Garda investigations are continuing into a botched shooting in Bray on Friday April 8.

Members of the Regional Support Unit (RSU) have been conducting a number of raids in the town since the incident occurred in Oldcourt estate. Last Tuesday, April 12, eight Garda cars arrived at Novara Road to carry out searches in relation to the incident. A number of properties have also been searched in the north Wicklow area as part of the investigation.

Garda Declan Lynch confirmed reports that a gunman attempted to fire a number of shots at a male victim on Friday morning. However, it is believed that the weapon that he was using jammed.

‘This is the story that we had. We believe there was a struggle then,’ he said.

According to Garda Lynch, the incident occurred at approximately 7.20 a.m. when there were very few people in the area.

‘We are treating it as a very serious matter,’ he said. ‘Because of the nature of the crime and the fact that it involved a firearm, we are not taking any chances. We have plenty of resources for this.’

Some reports have linked the recent shooting attempt to a convicted rapist who is a chief suspect in a murder attempt in November 2014.

However, when asked whether they were linking this suspect with the recent incident, Garda Lynch said that he is ‘not inclined to comment’.

‘We are not inclined to comment on that aspect as it has nothing to do with the incident. We are following a line of inquiry and anybody close to that would be suspicious,’ he said.

‘We are interested on hearing from anyone who has been in the area or knows anything about the incident.’

Garda Lynch said that people in the area were ‘shocked’ to hear about the incident.

(First published in the Bray People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: