Up to 50 suspects held in phone-theft swoops
Gardai have arrested almost 50 suspected pickpockets in connection with the theft of smartphones on city streets and in pubs and clubs.
Some of the suspects had arrived in the country days before they were arrested and were known to international police forces.
Officers made almost all of the arrests on the southside of Dublin city centre under a two-year-old operation aimed at combating the phone thieves. Codenamed Aughrim, it is being headed by Pearse Street gardai.
Those arrested included 27 Romanians, 16 Irish, and one each from Croatia, Lithuania and Brazil.
Gardai also stopped and searched 57 others they believed to be pickpockets but they were not charged with any criminal offence.
Apart from this country, they came from Kuwait, Algeria, Turkey, Lithuania, Poland, Libya, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Morocco, Brazil and Romania.
One officer said: "There is a huge international dimension to this investigation and a lot of close co-operation between police forces all over Europe."
The latest swoops were carried out over a five-day period around St Patrick's Day and resulted in the seizure of dozens of mobile phones, cash and other stolen belongings.
Three of those arrested were Romanians who had arrived here by car from the UK the day before they were detained. One has since returned to Britain and was arrested by police there yesterday. The other two were dealt with by the courts here.
Garda intelligence also indicated that another car-load of thieves had arrived here from France, through the Rosslare ferry port, but they did not surface in Dublin during the operation.
Over the past two years, officers say, they have 'intercepted' about 1,200 suspected pickpockets and inquiries showed the majority of them were known to police elsewhere in Europe.
During the St Patrick's weekend swoops, Pearse Street gardai were assisted by two Europol analysts, who helped check out the identities of any foreign suspects and establish whether they had criminal convictions in other EU jurisdictions.
Meanwhile, gardai have smashed a travelling gang they suspect carried out a spate of burglaries in the north-west. Gardai say the gang is based in Dublin and Kildare, using the motorway network to target the homes of vulnerable victims in rural areas.
Five men with addresses in Tallaght, Clondalkin and Rathfarnham in Dublin and Maynooth in Kildare were arrested for questioning. The suspects are aged 30, 25, 19, 18 and 17 years.