Farmers warned over firearms thefts

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Farmers are being warned of a recent surge in the number of thefts of legally held firearms.

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA has voiced concern after a number of incidents in the greater Armagh area in recent weeks.

Mr Irwin said he was aware of a number of incidents where criminals had entered homes and threatened homeowners if they didn’t open gun cabinets. He said it was “very concerning” that so many legally held firearms had been stolen and said he would be continuing to liaise with Police locally to see what could be done to thwart this criminality.

He stated: “I am aware of a number of these incidents in recent weeks and indeed one in particular is of great concern as five guns were taken from one address. Those behind this are clearly part of a wider criminal network and they also obviously have a market and sinister purpose for these legally held weapons.

“It is important that farming families are made fully aware of the current spate of firearm thefts and I would reiterate to owners to ensure that all guns are stored securely at all times when not in use.

“It is concerning that these gangs seem to be deliberately targeting homes for the purpose of stealing legally held guns. Also it is clear those behind this criminal activity are intent on getting the guns and will go to any lengths to get them. This has been the case locally in recent weeks where a family was threatened by criminals in order to get access to the cabinet.”

Mr Irwin concluded: “I have spoken at length with the PSNI locally on this issue and it is of growing concern out in the community that gangs are pursuing this type of criminality. It is of course a matter for the Police to continue to pursue those elements involved in this criminality and I would also ask that the public remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the PSNI immediately to ensure that those behind this crime are apprehended and dealt with through the courts.”

A police spokesperson said the theft of any firearm is naturally a cause for concern.

“We take such crimes seriously and can reassure the public that we actively investigate all incidents involving the theft of firearms,” the spokesperson added.

“We would also remind owners of the importance of ensuring that all firearms are stored safely and securely.

“The following practical steps can help reduce the risk of your firearms being stolen and ending up in dangerous hands:

- Owners should secure all their firearms and ammunition in approved gun cabinets that have been manufactured to the correct standard.

- Considerable thought also needs to be given to the appropriateness of its location.

- Those with hold bolt-action rifles should store the bolt separately.

- Never store other valuables in a gun cabinet.

- Keys to gun cabinets should also be kept in a secure place with access limited to authorised persons, without a label, and away from the cabinet.

- For added security, rooms where firearms are being stored could also be fitted with alarm sensors.

“Police would appeal to anyone who has any information regarding the theft of firearms to contact them. The telephone number to ring is 101, or contact the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.”