Mass-goers have been warned to ensure they are taking security precautions when leaving their homes as burglars are targeting empty homes during Mass times.
There has been an increase in break-ins at homes in recent weeks around the county and gardaí have issued a warning that houses are being targeted when the occupants are at Mass.
A number of burglaries have taken place at homes in east Donegal on Saturday evenings when the occupants were attending Mass and a house was broken into in Bundoran when the owner was at morning Mass.
The warning comes after thieves struck at a church car park at the weekend and stole items from cars while the owners were attending Saturday evening Mass.
The incident happened outside St Mary’s Church in Castlefinn. Windows were smashed in two cars and valuables were taken.
In a separate incident last week a break-in took place at the parochial house in St Johnston. A sum of cash was taken when the house was broken into while it was unoccupied.
Also last week two men were arrested after attempting to steal a car from outside a house in Ballybofey.
Donegal Garda Division Crime Prevention Office Sergeant Paul Wallace said there has been an increase in break-ins in recent weeks.
“We have had a number of break-ins at houses in east Donegal in particular Ballybofey, Castlefinn, Newtowncunningham, and Killea. And some of these are happening around Mass times. The times for houses being broken into always changes around this time of year as it is dark from 4pm. The burglars modify their times.”
He said the break-ins were being carried out by burglars who are “forensically aware”.
“They are taking steps to leave no trace and they are targeting cash in particular or small electronic items that can be converted into cash easily.
“We are saying that these people are looking for opportunities in the run-in to Christmas and they are watching houses and watching social media.
“There has been an increase in the last few weeks which always happens as houses are vacant when people are shopping.”
Businesses are also being asked to take precautions ahead of Christmas.
“In this, the busiest week of the year, we are asking retailers to do their cash clearance, make sure cash is secure, to be vigilant at their homes and report any suspicious activity,” Sgt Wallace said.
“Report any suspicious activity near premises and be aware of people entering into private areas, or storerooms on your premises.
“If anyone is encountered in a place like that they should be challenged and gardaí informed. If they are in a vehicle, report that to gardaí.”
Meanwhile, batteries have been stolen from two excavators at a site at Luinneach, Gaoth Dobhair.
Gardaí are appealing for anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area between December 7 and 14 to contact them at Milford or Bunbeg Garda Stations.