Raids: local gardaí not informed

The investigation of tiger kidnappings by gardaí is being hindered by red tape and bureaucracy, senior officers have told the Sunday Tribune.

Kidnappings increased by 86% in the third quarter of 2008, according to CSO figures issued last week, but senior gardaí are unhappy that they have not been issued with any official protocols on how to investigate such crimes.

The Sunday Tribune has learned that gardaí of inspector and superintendent level have consistently complained that they are not being told about a kidnap incident in their district until it is over and are then expected to launch full investigations.

Gardaí in the secretive Crime and Security section at garda headquarters have been working on an internal protocol to advise officers about dealing with tiger kidnappings for over a year but have not yet issued any guidelines.

Nor have gardaí been given details of the agreed protocols between banks and garda management on tiger raids and say they are investigating with one hand effectively tied behind their backs.

If an employee walks into his or her branch and withdraws money because their family has been taken hostage, the duty manager at the branch is expected to dial a set phone number.

The number connects to the sergeant on duty at Garda Command and Control, who then contacts Crime and Security.

Crime and Security immediately sends a surveillance team to the home of the bank employee while a team from the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) is dispatched to the bank. Other gardaí at Crime and Security try to establish who is behind the raid in the meantime. If the employee is still on the premises then a beacon is planted in the money and gardaí theoretically track the cash to the criminal gang and arrest them.

In reality though, the phone call to the gardaí is inevitably delayed by the banks so the employee is long gone by the time the ERU arrives.

The safety of the bank employee and their family is paramount to gardaí so when the cash is handed over and the employee's family re­leased, Crime and Security ceases to have any involvement in the operation.

Once the initial crime has been completed the local superintendent is informed and takes over the investigation, even though he has been kept out of the loop when the original raid took place.

This has led to huge anger among senior officers who say that it is difficult to conduct a professional and thorough investigation if they have had no part in planning the initial response to the raid.

One senior officer said: "We are not advocating sending dozens of squad cars with flashing sirens to the house of the raid victim but we know far better than Crime and Security who is involved in criminality in our district.

"By the time we get the nod it is far too late and Crime and Security then retreats and we are left to investigate.

"The assistant commissioner has been made aware of the unhappiness of senior gardaí but nothing has changed."

In September, local gardaí learned that a tiger kidnap had taken place at a bank in Phibsborough and arrested one man with €300,000 in cash after they went to an area within their district where they felt that cash might be handed over.

Crime and Security had no role in catching the man, who was subsequently charged.