CRIMINAL gangs are flying into Dublin for weekend iPhone theft sprees which can net thousands of euro.
One professional pick pocket was nabbed with nine stolen phones from one nightclub alone.
Gardai have now launched a major operation against the marauding foreign gangs, mainly consisting of young smartly dressed men and women from Romania and Bulgaria.
Last Friday night, one criminal – who had just flown into Dublin – was found with nine stolen iPhones as he left a prominent city centre nightclub.
The suspect in his 20s – a Romanian national – was arrested as he walked on Wexford Street by officers just seconds after he had left the nightclub last weekend.
He had stolen the smart-phones in a “methodical fashion” from unsuspecting punters who were enjoying a night out in the club.
Senior sources say that this incident is just one example of the epidemic of thefts by foreign gangs that is gripping the capital.
“A stolen top-of-the range iPhone that could cost around €500 here is then sold in shops, stalls or online by these criminals in their own countries for prices ranging from €200 to €250,” a source added.
Gardai have been forced to launch major operations against the foreign gangs who are made up of young smartly dressed Romanians and Bulgarians.
Last week gardai from Pearse Street and Store Street stations arrested 21 suspects from Romania and Bulgaria who had travelled to Dublin “specifically to embark on a wave of street thefts and thefts in pubs and clubs.”
“The modus operandi of these highly-organised criminals is to fly into Dublin from their home countries, spend a short period of time here – regularly between two days and a week – before flying back out with their loot,” a source explained.
This means that the Romanian caught with nine phones last week could have potentially made over €2,000 from his enterprise – more than covering the cost of return flights from destinations across Europe.
Of the 21 suspects arrested in recent days, 17 were arrested on the south side of the Liffey while the other four were picked up on the northside city centre.
Four of the suspects were Bulgarians while 17 were Romanian nationals.
Sources say that the Bulgarian street theft gangs are “predominately made up of women” while persons of both sexes operate in the Romanian gangs.
Bulgarian gangs operating on our streets is a “newish development,” according to sources.
“This is a problem that is not going away. In fact, it is getting worse. For example, gardai arrested three professional female thieves from Bulgaria last Saturday night as part of a surveillance operation.
“The three women had only arrived into the country on Saturday morning, less than 12 hours after they were picked up.
“Gardai watched as they went from pub to pub in the Temple Bar area before they were finally caught in the act of robbing a purse in The Quays pub.
“They were arrested and brought before Dublin District Court on Monday where they were given the benefit of the Probation Act.
“The garda view is that because they were not even convicted of a crime by the courts, it is very likely that officers will see these women again as they will consider this country a soft touch,” a source explained.
Other well-known establishments that have been targeted by the criminals are Flannerys pub – where six iPhones were stolen from customers in the space of one night recently – and Dicey Reilly’s pub, where a criminal was caught near the bar by gardai with five iPhone’s that had been robbed from punters in that pub.
While some of the pickpocket criminals are members of the Roma community, sources say that the majority are not.
“These are smart, almost cosmopolitan, criminals who dress very well because it enables them to get into nightclubs and pubs where they carry out a lot of their crimes.
“But they are also brilliant street operators and are causing huge concern for gardai working in the city centre,” the source added.
Meanwhile it is understood that gardai have also identified an “organised” Algerian street theft gang which is operating in the city centre.