Some Christmas tree growers in Co. Wicklow are sleeping out in caravans near their crop to protect them from thieves.
Speaking on Newstalk recently, one Christmas tree grower called Stephen said that he’s afraid of having them stolen.
“We’re always on guard. We’ve a campervan up the hill and I stay there at night.
“I sleep out there from October up to Christmas,” he said.
Four years ago, the Gardai set up Operation Hurdle in order to help prevent the theft of Christmas trees after there was a spate of serious thefts.
Another grower said that the local Gardai are giving growers a hand to keep an eye on them.
“They’re more valuable at this time of year and we’ve had no problems so far,” he said.
We’re losing about 200 trees a year to theft and that’s growing steadily. You’d be very lucky to get a tree out in seven years.
Growers started cutting a few weeks ago and they said that technology is a bit better now; many have cameras out around their sites.
The Gardai also conduct regular Christmas tree checkpoints in Wicklow, including at the crossroads in Garryduff where many thieves would have to go through.
Superintendent Paul Hogan said that a group of growers had previously come to him after a serious incident where a grower in Roundwood was tied up and held at gunpoint.
“These culprits are also involved in other areas of crime so we had a Wildlife Crime Officer appointed.”
He also said that the area has a large number of wild deer and that poaching goes on so the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) also liase with them set up checkpoints to prevent poaching.