herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Beware of 'hugger muggers' on streets

ORGANISED crimes gangs using a 'hugging mugging' technique are spreading across the capital.

Gardai are on major alert for criminals who have been targeting merry revellers in the capital while the victims walk home after a night socialising.

Ten people had smartphones stolen in the space of a just a few hours during the Bank Holiday weekend on the southside of Dublin city centre mostly between 4am and 6am.

'Hugging mugging' is a relatively recent criminal phenomenon in which a victim is cuddled on the street by a seemingly very friendly stranger while in fact the criminal quickly picks their pockets without their knowledge.

Gardai have identified a North African gang made up primarily of Algerian nationals for being involved in the recent spike in this crime in Dublin.

Almost 200 instances of 'hugging mugging' have been reported to gardai this summer alone.

So far, officers have only been able to arrest one of the gang members who was caught in the act of 'hugging mugging' his victim at 5.30am on Monday.

A senior source said: "Make no mistake, this is organised criminal activity – up to nine gang members have been identified, most staying in hostels in the Rathmines area.

"They are aged from 20s to 40s and were involved in a spate of these crimes last weekend.

"They have been targeting people who are on their way home after a night out and the areas in which they are most prolific were around Harcourt Street, South Richmond Street and the canal area.

DRUNK

"They are going after people in a systematic way – in most instances people who had a lot of drink on board have been caught out. The victims are mostly male.

"A big problem here is the fact that many of the victims of this crime are drunk – they don't even know that they have been robbed. They think they may have lost their phone."

Gardai say the gang have also been robbing from people who find themselves passed out on the street after too much booze.

Garda enquiries into one Algerian national involved in this type of crime showed that he had almost €50,000 in a bank account, a source revealed.

kfoy@herald.ie

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