| 13.1°C Dublin

The 'wolf pack' gangs behind an epidemic of violent attacks

A dramatic surge in violent attacks and mugging incidents has created a sense of fear on our streets.

Today a special Herald investigation uncovers the shocking scale of street crime being reported across our capital.

Gardai are grappling with a major epidemic of assaults, muggings and pick-pocket incidents that are having a devastating effect on victims' lives.

In the southside of the city there has been a 90pc increase in street crime in the past 12 months alone.

Officers are alarmed at the lengths thieves are willing to go to in order to steal smartphones, cameras and small amounts of cash.

Often victims are subjected to vicious assaults even when they do not resist the mugging.

Nationwide the problem is just as serious with new figures revealing a 43pc rise in incidents of theft against the person.

A Herald investigation shows:

•Sharp rises in several types of crimes against the person, especially thefts and assaults.

•Levels of street crime are going up while signifcant drops in some drug and public order offences have been recorded.

•Well-organised gangs have been monitored in different parts of the capital targeting unsuspecting members of the public and tourists.

•Gardai have held high-level talks as they fear street crime incidents are on the verge of spiralling out of control.

One area that gardai are focused on smashing is the development of a 'black market' in the city whereby outlets are knowingly purchasing stolen smartphones and jewellery before selling them on.

Highly organised gangs are running theft and mugging operations and have developed links with rogue outlets.

The groups split up and place themselves in different "patches" before mugging people, sources have told the Herald.

We can reveal how undercover gardai are stationing themselves at 'mugging blackspots' across the city in a bid to clampdown on this.

Areas around the Ha'penny bridge and Trinity College -- two of Dublin's most popular tourist attractions -- have earned themselves the dubious reputation as particularly prone to this type of incident.

Gardai believe the crimewave problem shows no sign of abating and could get worse.

"We're facing a situation whereby street crime is heading towards levels we've never seen before," a senior source said.

"Some of these thieves are willing to do whatever it takes to make a few bob.

"The fact that muggings are becoming more and more violent is the most alarming element of this epidemic."

Officers based in stations on both sides of the Liffey are reporting huge rises in street crime levels.

A look at one station -- Rathmines in south Dublin -- reveals a 67pc increase in thefts against the person compared to the same period last year.

Sergeant John Crosse, who serves in Harcourt Square's Garda Crime Prevention Unit, said: "Being vigilant is the key. By showing off your property you are giving thieves an opportunity. We would also strongly advise people to stay in company when they are out in public so that they do not isolate themselves."