Man pickpockets elderly woman after helping her
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Thieves are swarming holiday hotspots in New York , so much so that the NYPD has created a special squad to tackle pickpockets.
The criminals are targeting holiday shopping areas and tourist hangouts including Rockefeller Centre, Saks 5th Avenue, Bryant Park and Times Square.
“We are the troops on the ground. We follow these guys that are targeting victims to try to steal their belongings,” NYPD Lt Jonathan Cedeno told local outlet CBS2.
He added: “The new thing is the cell phones, definitely. They take these cell phones, they get money for them. A lot of the times they take them to other counties where they get double the price.”
On the day of the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Centre, police said they arrested several pickpockets, some of them working in teams.
Lt Cedeno said men and women, aged 15 to 60, had been arrested with some having committed similar offences previously.
Officers are both uniformed and in plain clothes and the NYPD has also launched a task force to combat theft on the subway, which has seen a huge increase since last year. Thefts on the metro are lower than pre-pandemic levels, however, when ridership was higher.
One woman described her experience getting pickpocketed at Grand Central Station in NYC.
Crowded areas like 5th Avenue are being targeted by pickpockets. (Image: GETTY/TikTokfirstname.lastname@example.org)
“I just want to warn everybody, pickpocketing is at an all time high right now in the city. I had my phone stolen straight out of my pocket in Grand Central yesterday. I was on the 6th platform, all of a sudden my music stopped playing from my air pods and my phone was gone,” said NYC resident Megan Voit in a video posted to TikTok.
She disabled her phone remotely and had it display her friend’s number on the screen.
However, in a sinister twist, the crooks phoned Megan’s friend asking her to pay to get the phone back, reportedly saying: “How much for your phone back?”
Megan said that even though she was tracking her phone, police told her there was nothing they could do to help her retrieve the stolen device.
She said police told her pickpocketing was at an “all time high” in New York City and that crafty criminals were stealing phones, selling them and still attempting to get money out of the owners, even though the phones were long gone.
Police made multiple arrests at the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Centre. (Image: Getty)
She urged people not to keep their phones in easy to reach pockets and to “be smart, be aware”.
The news comes amid reports of rising crime in the Big Apple. Major crime for Midtown South, which hosts Madison Square Garden and Macy’s flagship store, soared by 50 percent compared to last year.
Similarly, in the Flatiron District, home of Fifth Avenue, grand larcenies are up 29 percent since last year with multiple stores reporting thefts of merchandise worth thousands of dollars.
“Sorry, I have to feed my family,” muttered one thief as he stole a $1,000 shearling jacket, an employee at women’s fashion store Intermix told the New York Post.
The employee added: “It’s almost inevitable that we are going to get hit [over the holidays].”
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Police have warned New Yorkers and visitors about pickpocketing. (Image: GETTY)
Other shops have chained items to the floor to prevent would-be thieves from grabbing merchandise and running off with it.
However, the NYPD has a message for the thieves and pickpockets, according to Lt Cedeno.
He said: “While you’re looking for your next victim, we are watching you.”
The NYPD has urged people to report anything suspicious to officers and warned that the next big event for pickpockets will be the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square.