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It takes just 20 minutes for criminals to fence your stolen iPhone

THEFT of smartphones in Dublin's city centre has spiralled out of control, according to victims and gardai. Expensive mobile phones such as iPhones are being stolen and re-sold within 20 minutes.

Aileen Casey (26) who was a recent victim of a phone-snatching was told by gardai that there was no way of getting her phone back because it was already sold.

Gardai say that the problem is most acute in Dublin city centre with the stations of Store Street and Pearse Street having to deal most regularly with the problem.

Gardai have identified a number of organised gangs based in the north inner city who are involved in the thefts which are often accompanied by violence and threats.

In one instance last year, a suspect was arrested by detectives from Pearse Street Station and charged with multiple thefts of iPhones.

But officers were left astounded when he was granted bail only to continue being involved in thefts.

Social care worker Aileen Casey was sending a message to a friend by Connolly Station last Friday afternoon when her phone was snatched.

While the thief was known to operate around the area, Aileen was told that gardai had been unable to arrest him or his gang so far, and that there was no way of retrieving her stolen Android phone.

"It happened when I was standing by the Luas, at the bottom of the stairs of Connolly Square last Friday around 3pm.

"I was about to text a friend to tell her where I was, the next thing I felt was someone coming from behind and my phone was snatched.

"The security guard said that he had recognised the thief, that he comes in once or twice a week.

"The guards said they knew him and his gang as well, they were very helpful but they said that they wouldn't be able to get the mobile phone because he'd probably have it sold within 20 minutes."

The day after her ordeal, Aileen who is originally from Cork but works in Dublin as a social carer, went to a number of phone shops in the city centre.

She found a Samsung Galaxy II that looked suspiciously familiar.

"On Saturday I went into a shop on the northside and straight away I saw a phone that looked just like mine.

"I asked the shop assistant where she got it and she didn't know, she didn't seem to care.

"I asked her: 'could it have been stolen?' and she said that it could have been. Then I said to her: 'could it be my mobile phone that was robbed?' and she thought it was hilarious, she laughed her head off and she said it could.

"I was sickened."

According to CSO figures, the number of thefts from persons has consistently increased between 2009 and 2011.

There were over 3,600 such cases last year, an increase of more than 28pc from 2010. Thefts of mobile phones are understood to account for a large part of this data.

"In the event of a theft report the matter immediately to the Gardai and the service provider," a spokesperson for An Garda Siochana told the Herald.

Phone owners are also advised to be conscious of their surroundings and take appropriate precautions.