SPECIALIST garda units are monitoring a gang that is using high-end technology to steal top-of-the range cars.
Sources say that "senior gardai are extremely concerned" about the new trend.
The operation involves an eastern European crime gang using laptops so that key fobs of expensive cars can then be cloned.
Detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) this week launched a major investigation into the gang's activities.
A senior source explained: "This is a worrying new trend but gardai have already identified the eastern European gang who have been involved in this activity.
"No arrests have been made but a number of special operations to target this gang have been put in place.
"The kind of vehicles they have been taking are new high-range cars such as BMWs and Mercs - which have good security in place.
"Gang members have been breaking into the cars and then using a laptop, which they plug into the car and into its diagnostics system where they are able to get the car's information.
"They are then able to use this information to clone the fob keys of the car, which they drive off.
"It is suspected that the vehicles are then quickly brought out of the country where they are sold off in continental Europe.
"In the last few weeks alone, the gang have stolen a number of cars and it is important that this is stopped."
The eastern European gang are using the latest in technology to steal cars unlike a number of Irish gangs who have been using converted fishing rods and magnets to 'fish' car keys from the hall tables of their victims' homes.
This crime craze was first highlighted in the Herald two years ago and since then gardai have had notable success against the so-called fishing gangs.
Despite this success, there was a 20pc increase in this type of crime over the first four months of the year nationwide.
Last month, gardai recovered five of the rods after arresting a number of suspects and carrying out searches.
They have focused in particular on two gangs who operate from bases in south and east Dublin but carry out burglaries across the capital and in the surrounding commuter counties.
Most of the vehicles stolen using the fishing method have subsequently been used in other crimes. Gardai said the two main gangs have up to 10 members but regularly change associates during crime sprees.
The fishing gangs have stolen well over 70 vehicles since the start of the year.