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March 22, 2012

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22 held as iPhone pickpocket gang busted

CITY police said yesterday that they have detained 22 suspects after busting a pickpocket gang that targeted the city's commercial areas.

Officers reminded locals to take care of belongings, especially cell phones - usually the prime target of gangs.

Among phones, iPhones are most coveted by pickpockets as they can be easily sold on, said a detective surnamed Chen.

"They are the bestsellers in the market, which is why many vendors are willing to buy stolen ones for a high price," Chen told reporters yesterday.

In the crackdown on March 2, more than 300 cell phones and an iPad 2 were recovered. The case was still under investigation yesterday.

The group came to the attention of police on January 5, when two suspects, surnamed Gao and Zhang, who had been under suspicion since last September, returned to the city and formed a 10-strong gang, according to Hongkou District police.

Most of the gang, which grew in strength, lived in a hotel in Hongkou, while some stayed in small hotels in Huangpu and Putuo districts, police said.

The suspects usually went out to eat around 11am and then went to commercial streets such as Qipu Road, Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall and Fuzhou Road to steal, police said.

The spoils would be handed to Gao and Zhang who would sell them on, it is claimed.

"Pedestrians listening to music through earphones became their targets," Chen said. "The suspects could recognize an iPhone through the earphone and lock onto the target."

Chen said the suspects would divide into groups of three to five while stealing.

One or two members would steal while the others covered them or acted as lookouts.

The suspects, most of whom are under 30 years old, have confessed more than 60 cases of theft, according to officers.

Tips to deter thieves

1. Do not listen to music using earphones in crowded places.

2. Do not keep your cell phone in the outside pocket of your coat or jacket.

3. Keep valuables close to you, such as in inside pockets.

4. Do not put valuables in bags. Carry a bag in front of you, where possible.


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