CRIMINALS preying on tourists are most likely to target young women sightseeing in Dublin during the afternoon, a new report reveals.
A government-backed service which helps holidaymakers who suffer crime during their stay in Ireland saw a 10pc surge in victims last year.
The Irish Tourist Assistance Service (ITAS) said 2012 was its third-busiest year since being set up nearly two decades ago.
Almost 740 tourists - at the brunt of 433 separate crimes and traumatic incidents - sought help from the support organisation, which was established in 1994.
Among them were 12 cases of violent crimes including aggravated thefts, assaults and robberies.
But in its annual report, the ITAS said that half of all reported crime against tourists was theft, either from the traveller or from their car.
Victims tended to be women aged between 17 and 25 years, while the majority of crimes were carried out during the hours of 2pm to 6pm in Dublin city centre, according to ITAS.
Incidents were mostly likely to happen when tourists were sightseeing, shopping or generally relaxing in restaurants and cafes with German, Italians and French among the most targeted nationalities, the report said.
However, Dick Bourke, chairman of ITAS, said Ireland was ahead of other European countries when it came to helping tourists get their holiday back on track after falling vitim to criminals.
"Ireland is leading the way in terms of the support it provides to tourist victims of crime," he said.
"We are the only country in Europe that has a dedicated service to assist tourists in these situations.
"With prompt intervention and support, 89pc of victimised tourists continued with their holiday plans in 2012, which is a good indication of the level of assistance that is provided by ITAS."
Gardai refer tourists who suffer crime while in Ireland to the service, which is supported by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Failte Ireland, Dublin City Council, Irish Hotels Federation and Vintners Federation of Ireland.
Dublin accounts for more than eight in 10 cases (84pc), with Garda stations in counties Wicklow, Galway, Kerry and Louth the next most likely to refer holidaymakers to the ITAS.
Support staff dealt with 44 different nationalities last year, including 131 Germans, 111 Italians, 94 French, 76 Britons, 72 Americans and 69 Spaniards.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Dublin Lord Mayor Naoise O Muiri said being a victim of crime while on holiday can be an extremely traumatic experience.
"Tourists have specific needs that must be met," he said.
"It is reassuring to know that ITAS are on hand to respond to these needs with staff and volunteers being on hand seven days a week to support tourists in these stressful situations."