‘Tis the season as Gardai take to the skies to protect Christmas tree farms
Nothing says Christmas more than the news that Gardai are patrolling the skies over the county in an effort to target thieves who are eyeing up tree farms.
Operation Hurdle, which is now in its seventh year, will see an increased Garda presence between now and the festive season in Wicklow, which has the highest number of Christmas tree farms in the country.
Newtown’s Christy Kavanagh (pictured), who will supply approx 10,000 trees in total from his farm to both the domestic and export market, has described Operation Hurdle as “a wonderful success”.
“There has hardly been any theft at all since it was set up and it has a ripple effect across the communities around here, because levels of poaching are kept right down and older people and those who live on their own feel a lot safer at night, because there’s a bigger garda presence around,” Christy says.
Christy, who’s a the vice-president of the Irish Christmas Trees Growers Association, also said many Irish farmers can look forward to a bumper harvest following a “very good growing season”.
The Christmas Tree market is estimated to be worth €21m to the national economy with a large portion of that circulating in the Wicklow area.
Wicklow Town Superintendent Paul Hogan, who set up the initiative back in 2012 after a delegation of concerned farmers approached him following a spate of thefts, said the threat growers used to face from criminal gangs has since reduced dramatically.
“Our focus is primarily on prevention, because the criminals and gangs out there know we’re keeping a very close eye on things,” he said.
Supt Hogan set up Operation Hurdle after a group of farmers approached him for help in 2011 after a grower in Roundwood was tied up and robbed.
Up to then criminal gangs had plundered many farms across the county, stealing over 2,000 festive firs a year and costing growers as much as €100,000.