Be wary of your wallets if you are travelling in a city bus or in the crowd at a public place. Not for the fear of pickpockets, but the organised manner they are operating in the city.

So organised are the gangs of pickpockets that they move in batches to pass on the stolen purse from one person to another and have consultant advocates to readily arrange bail even if they are caught. Investigators estimate that over a hundred active pocket picking gangs are moving in the city, striking at will and keeping police on toes all through the year.

Three weeks ago, P. Satish of Rajampet in Kadapa boarded a Metro Express bus at Nampally. When the bus halted at Gruhakalpa building, eight ‘passengers' got off hurriedly. On seeing them, the bus conductor alerted the remaining passengers to check their belongings saying those who got down were pickpockets. Satish casually checked his trousers' pocket only realise that his Rs. 26,000 were stolen. It is not just Satish who had fallen prey to the organised group of thieves. Such cases are reported regularly , but not all are brought on record. “Unless the stolen amount is high or valuable documents such as credit cards are lost, not many insist on issuing a First Information Report,” an investigator said.

A profession

For a majority of the gangs, pocket picking is a profession for generations. Many of them live in Hafeezpet near Kondapur and at Mangarbasthi of Habeebnagar. Having operated for years, they have acquired expertise in picking pockets. Even women members of the gangs are equally adept and have achieved notoriety by targeting woman passengers. The offenders take many precautions not to get caught. They never move alone and ensure that at least two to three persons travel in the bus while other associates follow them behind in a vehicle. Immediately after collecting a person's wallet, the offender would pass it on to his associate accompanying him. “Even if an alert victim catches the thief, he would feign innocence as the purse would be in the hands of his accomplice who would have disappeared by then,” the police said.