120 arrests a week in garda crackdown on organised street crime
Gardai have warned that Christmas shoppers and revellers in the capital should "exercise all necessary caution" as undercover officers patrol the city centre in a major crackdown on street crime.
As part of Operation Pier, gardai from Pearse Street Station have been arresting an average of 120 suspects a week in a huge drive against organised criminals who are targeting innocent people.
"Statistics from November show that in a three-week period in November, 360 suspects were arrested by Pearse Street gardai for a variety of offences that included pickpocketing, theft, begging and other related offences," a senior source told the Herald.
"These are essentially street crimes but these are crimes that affect the general public, many of whom might not often be out and about in the city centre every day but are now because it is the Christmas period."
As part of the massive crackdown officers have also seized at least 25 rickshaws that were determined to be a "serious danger to public safety" and in other cases found evidence that the drivers were involved in drug dealing.
The Herald has learned that one sergeant is in charge of a team of 18 officers, many of whom are working undercover in the drive to keep the capital safe.
"We have had instances where people who have been out socialising have been pickpocketed and did not even realise that they were victim of a crime, but undercover officers were watching and were able to see all that happened and intervene," a senior source said.
That incident happened in the Temple Bar area but undercover garda patrols are also operating in Grafton Street, Harcourt Street and Dame Street and surrounding areas as part of the investigation targeting street crime during the Christmas period.
A senior source said many of the suspects arrested for pickpocketing and theft offences were Romanian nationals who had travelled to Dublin as part of an "organised crime ring".
"They fly in, they fly out. They are part of wider criminal organisations who are also involved in begging scams," the source added.
As part of the same probe, gardai last month arrested 46 people for "organised begging".
The operation specifically targeted those who ask, or order, others to beg on the streets and then take the money from them. It is illegal to organise, control, force or direct others to beg. Penalties can include up to five years in prison and fines of €200,000.
Officers can also direct someone to stop begging and a beggar cannot ask for money in a way that is threatening or intimidating.
"This is the Christmas season. People are vulnerable in relation to organised criminal gangs whether they are shopping or socialising," the senior source said.
"Proper measures have been put in place to attempt to deal with this threat but everyone should be aware of their surroundings and exercise all necessary caution at all times."