Three women — all habitual offenders — were arrested and jewels and other valuables worth Rs. three lakh recovered from them here on Sunday.

Following a series of complaints that cash and valuables were being stolen from passengers of city and mofussil buses, Inspector General and Commissioner of Police (Madurai City) P. Kannappan had formed special teams to nab the culprits.

Officials in plainclothes, including women police personnel, were closely monitoring the suspects at bus stands, railway station and at crowded shopping areas. On some occasions, they interrogated suspects identified in CCTVs installed in commercial establishmentsAfter about a fortnight, the police teams were convinced that the gang comprised only women and they belonged to Madurai. Based on the data available with the police records, some suspects were shadowed, which gave the team a breakthrough to arrest the three women — Kavitha (33) and Manimala (30) both wives of one Moorthy, and Balasundari (30), wife of Manoharan, all belonging to Velichanatham near Oomachikulam in suburban Madurai.

Based on their confessions, the police came to know that the trio had indulged in crimes since 2009 in Tallakulam and Anna Nagar areas in the city. Their modus operandi was to board mofussil buses and travel from point to point. They would initiate conversation with gullible passengers with valuables ranging from cell phone, cash or jewellery. They would steal them by diverting attention of the passengers, Subramaniapuram station (crime) Inspector Sugumar said.

The police also said that the trio had lifted gold chain, silver anklets and mobile phones from passengers. In February alone, they had committed crimes in seven to eight buses in a week's time.