They kick their victims, even spit on them, and when their attention is diverted, make away with their wallets and bags containing cash and other belongings. Some thieves pose as Arabs and hug their victims while picking their pockets.
Ajman and Sharjah have seen a spurt in such crimes and police are warning residents to watch out for suspicious people near malls and banks. This warning comes after members of some gangs were arrested recently.
The criminals were caught after plain-clothes police trapped them near malls. Arabs, Asians and Africans are part of this racket, say police officials. The men stand accused of stealing wallets containing cash, as well as mobile phones and other costly items.
Among those who have recently fallen victim to these crafty thieves is Madathil Sajeer, an Indian businessman who says that he lost Dh2,500 to a pickpocket in Sharjah’s Rolla market.
“Last Saturday evening, I was coming back from the Rotana Hotel area after borrowing Dh2,500 from a friend who lives there. It was Maghrib prayer time and I was walking through the pedestrian pavement towards Rolla,” Sajeer recalled. “Suddenly, a man tried to trip me from behind. He was repeatedly kicking me from behind. I was about to fall. Another man came and took the money from my pocket in a flash and disappeared because my attention was on the man kicking me.”
Although Sajeer has been living in Rolla for five years and had heard tales of pickpockets, it was the first time he had experienced it first hand.
“When the nearby shopkeeper asked me to check the money in my pocket, I realised the Dh2,500 was missing,” Sajeer said, adding that he immediately began shouting for help as the culprits began running. “The borrowed money was to be sent home.”
Following the incident, one of the suspects was apprehended by a group of Bangladeshi expats who chased the man. The second suspect – who had the money – escaped.
“Sharjah police came and took my details and said they’d contact me if the thief is caught,” Sajeer added.
In another incident, an Indian expat was walking in Al Qasmiya near Sharjah Immigration when a passerby spat on him. The expat – a shop owner – was carrying Dh16,500 in his pocket. In this instance, however, the victim remained alert and did not allow the splatter to touch him or his clothes.
“Many people have such bitter experiences in Sharjah,” a shopkeeper, who witnessed the incident, told Khaleej Times. “The Immigration road victim was alert and the pickpocket ran away, leaving behind his shirt. I think he was specially trained to do this job,” he said.
Colonel Abdullah Saif Al Matroushi, Director of CID at Ajman Police, said the department had recently received a number of complaints from local residents about incidents of people losing their wallets.
Following the complaints, police have intensified patrols and deployed CID officers in various areas. In one incident, police apprehended two Africans who would spit on their victims, before apologising and pretending to help the victims clean up. While the victims were distracted, another suspect would pick their pocket.
Another gang of three Africans used a rented minivan to offer passengers a ride and robbed them. A third gang, comprised of three Arabs, disguised themselves in the Emirati traditional dress and pick-pocketed victims while hugging them.
According to Al Matroushi, all the suspects entered the country on visit visas to commit their crimes, but that police remain vigilant to prevent such incidents from taking place.
Following the arrest of the thieves, police have not received any additional complaints, Al Matroushi added, noting that police have nonetheless initiated a surveillance plan in which officers are deployed to high-risk areas to prevent crimes.
In Sharjah, a police official said that police are aware of a number of incidents of pick-pocketing or bag-snatchings, but do not consider the crimes as a phenomenon.
According to officials, the number of theft crimes – particularly robberies – has gone down significantly, from 433 in 2015 to 215 in 2016. Col Mohammed Rashid Al Bayat, Director General of the Sharjah Police Operation Department, said police arrested a number of gangs involved in various theft and robberies, including motorcycle-borne Asian thieves who snatched ladies’ bags on public streets. Al Bayat added that police are making considerable efforts to reduce thefts in the emirate, adding that they can only do so with the full cooperation of the public. Additionally, he urged women to immediately inform police when exposed to any such assaults, so that officers can quickly respond and arrest the culprits. To do so, he encouraged the public to call 800151 or send an SMS to 7999.
> The attention of victim is diverted by spitting on them
> The thieves then move swiftly and steal wallets
> Other thieves pose as Emiratis and hug people while filching wallets