Foreign gangs use 'dipping', 'hugging mugging' and 'shoulder surfing' in spree of thefts
Foreign gangs are jetting into Dublin to carry out targeted theft sprees from people in the city centre before fleeing abroad again just days later.
The most prevalent theft techniques are known as 'dipping', 'hugging mugging' and 'shoulder surfing'.
Despite the best efforts of gardai, and the introduction of a special policing plan involving armed officers patrolling the streets in the coming weeks, the theft epidemic continues.
Gardai in Pearse Street, which covers many of the main shopping areas, including Grafton Street, have had a degree of success with Operation Pier, their special drive against this type of crime.
The criminals, who include Irish nationals as well as mainly Romanian gangs, use a variety of techniques when robbing people on the street.
'Dipping' is the act of a pickpocketer extracting a wallet or phone from the victim's bag or clothing.
A gang of Romanian criminals has been operating a patch all year between O'Connell Street and College Green with numerous incidents of dipping taking place on Westmoreland Street.
Gardai have arrested a number of these perpetrators, but have been left frustrated as the courts have granted the suspects bail and they have simply left the country.
'Shoulder surfing' involves a criminal watching people make transactions on their debit or credit cards in bars or clubs and then memorising their PIN. They then keep the victim under surveillance and steal the person's bag or pickpocket them.
Gardai said the "ideal time" for criminals to do this is shortly before midnight so they can then "max out" the victim's card over a two-day period by making transactions either side of midnight.
'Hugging mugging' is a crime in which a victim is hugged on the street by a seemingly friendly stranger when, in fact, the criminal is picking their pocket.
The gangs also target drunken people who are passed out on the ground after drinking too much alcohol.
Undercover garda operations in Dublin city centre will be increased in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This will include swamping 'black spot' areas with up to 20 undercover officers at a time, particularly on weekends.
Gardai are also building up "intelligence-based profiles" on key players. Raids are launched once evidence has been collected.