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Roma begging gangs broken up

LARGE amounts of cash have been seized as gardai moved against Roma gangs using children to beg on Dublin's streets.

Officers also uncovered a major money trail to Romania in the crackdown which has led to 540 arrests this year alone, gardai revealed today.

Children are being used by organised beggars in all weather conditions as ploys to lure money from pedestrians.

Officers said that on 22 occasions those arrested were using young children as begging props.

Significantly officers seized €7,000 cash from "known street beggars," revealing the money being generated by the gangs.

The investigation led by officers at Pearse Street Garda pinpointed 30 addresses in Dublin and Kildare used to organise begging in the capital.

Six ring leaders were identified and arrested.

Some 64pc of those arrested in the past nine months were foreign nationals.

As part of the ongoing operation, raids also took place on addresses in Gardiner Street, Manor Street and North Circular Road in the North Inner City, as well as properties in Celbridge in Kildare.

"Evidence obtained thus far suggest that the organised begging is confined to family units of Roma gypsies," said Inspector Patrick McMenamin.

"Surveillance has been conducted both on addresses and transportation between Ireland and Romania," he added.

The inspector warned that begging will continue to exist as long as people are prepared to hand over money freely.

The Criminal Justice Public Order Act 2011, enacted in February of this year, created new offences and powers for An Garda Siochana.







Organised

And inner city councillor Mannix Flynn told the Herald today that the legislation is "clearly working" in terms of tacking organised begging.

"This legislation has allowed gardai to be extremely proactive in tackling this culture. We're talking about a lucrative economy and what's most serious is the use of children.

"This is child abuse and we need to remain vigilant in stamping it out.

"Organised begging can be frightening and intimidating, particularly to young families and the elderly. I very much welcome the gardai's excellent approach to tackling it."

hnews@herald.ie