On an action day executed in Naples today, the Italian National Police raided several locations and arrested 8 members of a criminal group responsible for violent watch robberies across Europe. This latest swoop brings law enforcement’s tally to 35 street thugs caught in this international operation coordinated by Europol, as 27 arrests has already been made in the last months. While the criminals were most active in Spain, hitting major cities and tourist hot spots, robberies executed by the same group were reported across major cities in all involved countries.

The criminals’ technique was as unsophisticated as it was effective. Operating in gangs of three to five members, one accomplice would stake out potential victims in establishments such as fine-dining restaurants or upper-scale hotels. Once they had identified a person wearing an expensive wristwatch, the victim would be observed and followed by a gang member in anticipation of the ideal opportunity. Acting fast and, when necessary, with violence, the other gang members would assault the watch owner, detach the expensive timepiece from the owner’s wrist and typically flee on a scooter.

An almost exponential increase in the price of luxury watches in recent years has incentivised criminals to increase targeted robberies. Certain rare timepieces have a market price that far exceeds the retail price, which regularly lies in the four or five digits. Typically, these types of robberies would be investigated at local level. However, with incidents of ruthless watch robberies being reported across Europe, national law enforcement authorities shared this information with Europol, where a pattern of organised crime was identified.

After sharing analytical findings with its partners, Europol invited investigators from the Naples Squadra Mobile and other involved law enforcement authorities for operational meetings to discuss the gathered intelligence picture. Based on the information at hand, the partners issued European Arrest Warrants for the remaining 8 Italian suspects based in Naples. Europol coordinated the international action day against the criminals and deployed staff to Italy during the raids. The investigation and the action day itself were supported by the @ON Network funded by the EU Commission, led by the Italian Antimafia Investigation Directorate (DIA).

Participating authorities:

  • Austria: Criminal Intelligence Service (Bundeskriminalamt); Criminal Police Vienna (Landeskriminalamt Wien);
  • France: National Police (Police Nationale – Brigade de Répression du Banditisme à Paris (BRB PARIS)); Judicial Police (Police Judiciaire Paris);
  • Germany: Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt); Berlin Police (Polizei Berlin, Direktion 2); Munich Police (Polizei München, Kommissariat 21);
  • Italy: Central Operations Service of the National Police (Servizio Centrale Operativo della Polizia di Stato); Mobile Squad of the Naples Police Headquarters (Squadra Mobile Napoli) with the cooperation of the “Decumani”, “Montecalvario” and “Dante” police stations as well as the Naples Air Border Police Office (Polizia di Frontiera Aerea);
  • Spain: National Police (Policía Nacional);
  • Switzerland: Federal Police (fedpol) and various Cantonal Police Forces.

Participating agencies:

  • Europol