Thursday 22 March 2018

Foreign gangs use 'dipping', 'hugging mugging' and 'shoulder surfing' in spree of thefts

Ken Foy

Foreign gangs continue to jet into Dublin to carry out targeted theft sprees from people in Dublin city centre and then flee the capital within days of their arrival.

Despite the best efforts of gardai and 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 through 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 our capital's street.

The most prevalent techniques are known as 'dipping', 'hugging mugging' and 'shoulder surfing'.

'Dipping' is the act of a pickpocketer extracting a wallet or phone from the victim's bag or clothing and is prevalent on the streets.

The Herald has learnt that a gang of Romanian criminals have 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, which has allowed them to simply leave the country.


'Shoulder surfing' involves a criminal watching people make transactions on their cards in bars or clubs and memorising their PIN number.

They then keep the victim under surveillance and steal the person's bag or pickpocket them.

The criminal then leaves the club and gardai say that the "ideal time" for them to do this is before midnight when they can "max-out" the victim's card over a two-day period by making transations on either side of midnight.

'Hugging mugging' is a crime in which a victim is cuddled on the street by a seemingly very friendly stranger while in fact the criminal quickly picks their pockets without their knowledge.


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 against these crimes will be increased in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

One element involves swamping blackspot areas in the city centre with up to 20 undercover officers at a time, particularly on weekends.

Gardai are also closely monitoring suspected thieves and are building up "intelligence-based profiles" on key main players.

Raids are then launched on these suspects once a significant body of evidence has been built up and then arrests can take place.

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