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Thursday 18 September 2014

Upsurge in thefts as pickpocket gangs settle in for tourist season

Published 15/06/2014 | 02:30

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Pickpocket gangs are targeting Ireland
Pickpocket gangs are targeting Ireland

THE Roma gypsy pickpocket gangs that arrived in Dublin to target tourists at the end of last month have split up and are settling in to spend the rest of the summer here.

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All 30 or so members of the two gangs gave one single address when stopped and searched by gardai in the first few weeks they arrived, Garda sources told the Sunday Independent.

Over the past few weeks the thieves moved out of the large semi-derelict house in north Dublin and appear to have settled down in at least five different addresses.

Gardai have so far only brought charges against three men, all with the same surname, in response to hundreds of thefts from tourists in Dublin city centre and around Christchurch, the Guinness Brewery and Heuston Station in Dublin 8.

Exact figures for the number of thefts are being officially withheld, but sources in Dublin city centre say there has been a major upsurge in thefts since the gangs arrived. There were 200 'thefts from the person' in the Dublin 8 area, on the southside of the Liffey, in the two weeks after the gangs first arrived.

Gardai say the gangs are very well organised and aware of Ireland's liberal bail laws. They believe the gangs intend staying here even though they have been arrested and bailed until they face trial and possible jail time.

With delays in cases coming to trial, gardai believe that will allow the gangs to remain here until the end of the main summer tourist season. Their preparations in advance of arriving in Dublin include making arrangements for legal representation and for bail bondsmen in the event of arrest and charges.

The gangs are also aware that targeting foreign tourists creates difficulties in prosecutions because by the time any case is heading for trial, the tourists have returned home and it becomes expensive and problematic for gardai to arrange for victims to return to Ireland to give evidence. They also know that if they leave before their trial date, gardai are faced with the further complication of issuing European arrest warrants and making expensive extradition arrangements.

The two gangs who have come here have previously been working across Europe in tourist centres and capital cities. All have been detected by other European police. A few members of the gangs have been in Ireland previously and one man was arrested after it was discovered he had four outstanding arrest warrants in Dublin dating from 2008.

In response to a query about the gangs the Garda Press Office issued a general warning for people to be cautious about their personal security.

The statement read: "Crime can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. The culprits think they won't get caught and the victim thinks 'it won't be me'. The reality is very different. For every crime, there is always a victim. Not every culprit will get caught but every victim will suffer. This information is designed to reduce your risk of injury and/or loss from crime in public places.

"Some areas are more prone to crime than others. Busy shopping thoroughfares with many people will always attract thieves. Likewise, quiet and poorly illuminated streets, underpasses and laneways may be the ideal place for muggers and robbers to strike. Many night-time random assaults and acts of violence occur at predictable flash points such as queues, outside licensed premises, fast food restaurants and nightclubs."

Sunday Independent

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