Pickpocketing is no longer just a local phenomenon but is regularly organised by groups of highly-skilled criminals who move from city to city and from country to country within a short space of time, often targeting elderly and vulnerable citizens.
Based on an initiative and invitation from Munich Police in Germany, Europol hosted and supported an international pickpocketing conference from 13 to 15 May 2013 at its headquarters in The Hague. Representatives of police authorities from 19 countries participated in the event: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The aim of the conference was to strengthen international cooperation to combat highly-organised pick pocketing crime. All participating countries reported witnessing a large number of crimes within a short period of time during major events, especially in metropolitan areas. An example mentioned was the 2012 Oktoberfest in Munich where almost 1000 people fell victim to pick pockets during a two-week period.
Conference participants shared experiences gained from investigations in pick pocketing ‘hotspots’ in their countries. Presentations included reports from Joint Investigation Teams (JITs), where police and judicial authorities in the EU Member States cooperated closely on such cases resulting in successful investigations. Operation Golf, with the involvement of Romania and the United Kingdom, is a good example of such cooperation. Romanian children were trafficked all over Europe for the purpose of committing pick pocketing crimes.
Concluding the conference, participants agreed to further strengthen their existing network for sharing intelligence and to use simplified reporting templates involving Europol in the procedure.
Finally, participants thanked both the Munich Police for organising and running the conference, and Europol for providing the conference venue and logistical support. A follow-up meeting is planned for autumn 2014.