Chicago police warn of pickpockets working in teams - FOX 32 News Chicago

Chicago police warn of pickpockets working in teams

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A warning for holiday shoppers: pickpockets are out there and they are looking to take your prized possessions.

So, what can you do to protect yourself and your stuff?

That was the topic of a police demonstration held Thursday, proving just how easy it can be for someone to swipe a wallet from an unsuspecting victim.

"By the time they're looking to see who took it that kid has already gone into the crowd with it," Chicago Police Commander John Graeber explains to the group.

Crowded stores, trains and buses create crimes of opportunity for real-life grinches. 24-year-old Isabelle Qaqish, fresh from Detroit, gave a refresher on how to pickpocket proof yourself this holiday season.

"I condense it and leave it all back and I take the bare minimum of what I need so it's the water bottle, phone and then the cards and basic cash," tourist Isabelle Qaqish says, showing her bag. "Just because I'm so anal about people sticking their hands in my purse and then this and then these are always zipped."

"My backpack doesn't have a zipper so I'm nervous about pickpocketing in this backpack because someone could reach and I would have no idea," says Kristine Horwitz, a Chicagoan.

Kristine Horwitz, along with Chicago police, warn criminals are getting more creative, while holiday shoppers can become less aware of their surroundings. Police say pickpockets are posing as people in need by dropping change, fake fainting and bumping into their intended targets.

This was a red flag for Joe Melograno.

"I'd have to run right away, right away, hands flailing, screaming... oh yeah," Melograno says.

Investigators say pickpockets are also working in pairs--sometimes teams--and they've seen a pickpocketing spike this holiday season.

Police have identified 165 professional pickpockets in the Chicago area including Chris Brown, arrested weeks ago.

"He was so good at it the victim got on the train and never knew until two stops later, his wallet was gone," says Graeber.

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