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Rise in Retail Crimes: Feral Youth and Organised Gangs Inflict ‘Plague of Locusts’ on Retailers, Oireachtas Committee Hears

An Oireachtas committee has been informed of a surge in crimes against retailers perpetrated by groups of “feral youth” and organised gangs. Tara Buckley, Director General of the Retail Grocery, Dairy, and Allied Traders Association (RGDATA), described them as descending “like a plague of locusts” and engaging in targeted robberies. Despite being a minority, these groups are seen as evolving into more serious criminal activities, with shoplifting alone costing the sector €1.6 billion annually.

Julie Dorel, Musgrave’s Head of Communications, highlighted the underreported nature of incidents, stating that retailers often consider recording crimes as an “investment in time with little outcome.” The situation is exacerbated by fearless shoplifters and individuals abusing staff. Vincent Jennings, Chief Executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA), emphasised the “astronomical proportions” of these activities and the growing prevalence of vile and abusive behaviour, including racism and misogyny.

While dismissing the notion that the rise in shoplifting is directly linked to the cost of living, Mr. Jennings emphasised the involvement of organised gangs. He criticised the lack of response from An Garda Síochána, citing a reluctance to use Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and expressing concerns about a deterioration in service.

Shop owners, including Michael O’Driscoll, detailed the challenges they face, with incidents often met with limited police response. Mr. Jennings urged the committee to investigate why ASBOs are not utilized and recommended making each theft or abusive behavior by youths subject to a Tusla referral.

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