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Romanian pick-pocket gangs driven out of city

Organised Romanian street gangs who were responsible for a major epidemic of pick-pocketing crime in Dublin city centre last month have either fled the country to target tourists in London or are locked up.

Pickpocketing offences rose by a staggering 200pc in the south city in May and June, but a garda clampdown led to more than 40 arrests and sources say that the problem "has largely abated".

A source said: "At the height of this problem, four or five tourists a day were being fleeced by these street gangs, but the situation is much calmer now.

"Recently there has been fewer than three incidents a week, which shows the gangs have moved out of Dublin."

As the situation threatened to get out of control last month, extra garda attention was given to certain areas of the city centre that have been established as pick-pocketing blackspots.

These included areas in the vicinity of Ha'Penny Bridge, Trinity College and Merchant's Arch on the southside and around O'Connell Bridge and Henry Street on the northside. Plainclothes gardai continue to patrol these areas to keep the gangs away.

For weeks, the gang targeted tourists in Dublin city centre, dressing like them and taking just seconds to steal wallets, phones and other valuables.



hostile

Gardai believe that many of the Romanian pickpocket gangs operating here were using Dublin as a training ground for a crime spree in London while the Olympics take place there.

In London, police have made more than 80 arrests already and warned thieves that the capital will be a "hostile environment" in the coming weeks.

Police in London have even drafted in a team of Romanian police officers to deal with the problem and patrol in the West End of London and Westminster during the Games.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "These Romanian officers will prove to be a huge asset in cracking down on certain criminal networks who are targeting tourists in central London."

Detective Inspector Mark Teodorini, head of Scotland Yard's Olympics crime team, called for public vigilance. Officers have conducted a series of raids in recent weeks on properties where suspected thieves were living.

He said: "We know where people are. We know the addresses they are using, we know the vehicles they are using, and we will come through their door very robustly -- and if we find anything on them, we will arrest them."

He added: "We won't always get them in the act, but we are trying to disrupt their activity."

kfoy@herald.ie