AN ORGANISED pickpocket gang has been smashed by gardai in an undercover swoop.
Nineteen suspects were arrested in just 24 hours in what gardai have called "a major success".
Among those arrested were two Romanian women who were involved in a honeytrap scam against an unsuspecting man.
The special operation, which is part of the gardai's clampdown on street crime codenamed Operation Aughrim, led to the mass arrests on Friday and Saturday night in Dublin city centre.
All the suspects are Romanian nationals aged between 16 and 40 and were picked up in the Grafton Street, Temple Bar and Nassau Street areas of the city centre.
The operation was co-ordinated and led by detectives from Pearse Street Garda Station.
Sources say some of the suspects had only been in Ireland a few days and had travelled here specifically to take part in organised street crime.
A source said: "These are highly organised foreign criminal gangs operating on the main streets of the capital -- in all cases these suspects were caught in the act by specialist undercover gardai.
"There is no doubt that there is an epidemic of this type of crime that does not seem to be going away anytime soon," the source said.
Operation Aughrim was launched in June to target the main players behind the crime wave that has resulted in a spate of pickpockets and muggings across the capital.
It has led to the arrest of almost 250 people so far.
The operation involves specific methods gardai have adopted to crack the crimewave.
One element involves swamping 'black spot' areas in the city centre, with up to 20 undercover officers at a time, particularly at weekends.
Gardai are also closely monitoring suspected thieves and building up "intelligence-based profiles" on the key players in the thefts.
Raids are then launched on these suspects once a significant body of evidence has been built up.
Another element of Operation Aughrim has seen a special focus given to combating muggings and assaults during the hours of 2am-5am and it is understood that several of last weekend's arrests happened during that period.