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 the previous year's conference, Europol once again hosted and supported an international pickpocketing conference, based on the initiative from Germany's Munich Police, from 15 to 17 October at Europol's headquarters in The Hague. Law enforcement experts from Europol and the following 16 countries participated in the event:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
In an effort to combat 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. Among others, Operation Festival served as a good example of the benefits of quick and multilateral exchange of intelligence through Europol, targeting specialised gangs who seek out festivals and other crowded venues to commit a crime.
The aim of the conference was to facilitate and encourage even stronger international cooperation, as participants reported similar phenomena and developments in pickpocketing crime within their jurisdictions. Concluding the conference, participants agreed to further strengthen existing networks for exchanging information and to expand the use of simplified reporting templates established since the previous conference.