Criminal gangs from Eastern Europe are reportedly targeting the continent’s cities by flying in on low-cost airlines to commit crime and then returning home.
Rob Wainwright, director of the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol, described the gangs as “petty criminals operating across multiple jurisdictions” and said they were active across Europe.
Card-skimming and pickpocketing are among the most common crimes, with Romanian and Bulgarian gangs thought to be responsible for 90% of all card-skimming offences in Europe.
Skimming is where data from a card’s magnetic strip is illegally copied – often using a fake attachment on a cash machine.
A cloned card is then produced and used to make purchases in someone else’s name.
Europol has identified 240 organised crime gangs from Romania which account for 6.7% of all criminal networks active in Europe, The Times reported.
Mr Wainwright told the newspaper: “We have this travelling criminal gang phenomenon that has become much more prevalent in the last three or four years – gangs from Lithuania, gangs from Poland, gangs from Romania that are operating in 20 or more European countries.
“They fly on low-cost airlines, do a few hits in one city and get back in time for tea. It’s very different for the local police to respond to that.”
Europol said police co-operation is vital if the “easyJet crime wave” is to be halted.
But it believes the threat from Romanian gangs will not rise significantly when restrictions on the type of work Romanians and Bulgarians can do in the UK are lifted in January.
Between April and June this year, the number of people from those two nations working in the UK rose by nearly 26%, with 141,000 employed in that period compared with 112,000 in the previous three months, according to the Office for National Statistics.