Pickpocketing has established itself as an ubiquitous phenomenon, driving crime numbers and affecting the perceived security of citizens all over Europe. Committed by highly professional groups, who use their mobility across borders to challenge established law enforcement practices, it has, more than ever, become necessary for law enforcement to coordinate and cooperate on an international level.
As a follow-up to previous conferences, Europol once again hosted and supported an international pickpocketing conference, based on the initiative from Germany's Munich Police Headquarters, from 07th to 09th of December at Europol's headquarters in The Hague. 140 Law Enforcement experts and prosecutors from Europol, Eurojust and the following 18 countries participated in the event: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Also reaching out beyond Europe, Bob Arno from the United States, known as a pickpocket entertainer and criminologist specializing in global street crime, was invited as a guest speaker, presenting pickpocket techniques as well as an insight in the countermeasures and tactical behaviour of the offenders
In an effort to improve the combat against organised pickpocketing crime, participants shared experiences gained from investigations conducted against mobile organised crime groups in their respective countries. Several operations against specific groups of pickpockets were presented, displaying not only the need for, but also the success of tight collaboration between the European states affected.
The participants also exchanged knowledge in several workshops on different pickpocketing-specific issues. Along with the theoretical workshops, about 30 officers took part in a practical workshop that was carried out in Amsterdam aiming at presenting best practice, detecting counter measures and identifying offenders. Several people were monitored, checked on and arrested in Amsterdam city centre that day.
The conference intended to facilitate and encourage even stronger international cooperation, as participants reported similar phenomena and developments in pickpocketing crime within their jurisdictions.
It was emphasised and agreed on that it is absolutely crucial to share data via Europol to get a full picture of the phenomenon. Concluding the conference, participants agreed to further strengthen existing networks for exchanging information.