The police arrested three men from Bulgaria red handed in the early morning of Friday 8 April in Helmond. The three men are suspected of multiple catalyst thefts throughout the Netherlands. The police suspect that the men (aged 31, 25 and 22) worked in varying compositions, kept moving in different vehicles and frequently changed their residence to avoid being caught by the police. Their working method is characterized by that of itinerant criminal groups and the police call it ‘mobile banditry’.
In January 2022, agents of the Infrastructure Service of the National Unit started an investigation into a group of men who may have been involved in the theft of catalytic converters throughout the Netherlands. In particular on vehicles of the Toyota Prius type. After the thefts, the suspects put the loot in bushes to collect at a later time. A catalytic converter yields between 200 and 300 euros at a metalworking company.
After one of the nighttime activities on January 27, 2022, several suspects are arrested red-handed in Arnhem. After their dispatch, the investigation continues. One of the suspects arrested in January, together with another suspect, then comes into the picture during a catalyst theft committed in Eindhoven on 4 April. The Public Prosecution Service then ordered their arrest. The men were pinned down on Friday, April 8 around 4 a.m. after a short chase and arrested red-handed in Helmond. Tools used in catalytic converter theft were found in their vehicle. The three Bulgarians have been taken into custody. The investigation continues and the police do not rule out more arrests.
This form of theft is difficult to tackle and to catch the suspects in the act, because the men in varying compositions mainly carried out their activities at night in residential areas and work very quickly. Several accomplices are on the lookout and every movement of the police in a quiet residential area is noticeable.
The term mobile banditry is used for (inter)nationally itinerant criminal groups, who are guilty of various crimes such as shop and cargo theft, burglary in homes and businesses, fraud, skimming, pickpocketing, fuel theft and car theft and burglary. Among other things, the police are trying to map and tackle these mobile gangs.
Since May 2019, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) has been able to demand higher sentences for, among other things, shoplifting, pickpocketing and burglaries committed by internationally operating mobile gangs that are seen as a form of internationally organized crime. This is stated in the Criminal Procedure Directive for mobile banditry. This guideline offers a public prosecutor guidelines for determining higher criminal demands committed by these internationally operating mobile gangs.
The approach to mobile banditry is a spearhead of the National Unit. Together with the Public Prosecution Service, “Detailhandel Nederland” and the other police units, the Dutch police aim to tackle mobile banditry so that the perpetrators know that they cannot commit catalytic thefts with impunity in the Netherlands. Suspects are eligible for summary justice, remain in custody until the hearing and are eligible for a declaration of undesirability from the IND. This prevents them from being able to continue their ‘activities’ in freedom until the date of the hearing and to leave for another country just before the hearing. If they have been declared an undesirable person, someone can always be removed if they are found, even if they have not committed any criminal offences.