A concerning trend has emerged in the heart of Times Square, where the number of pickpocket complaints has skyrocketed by an alarming 222%.
According to data released by the New York Police Department (NYPD), the surge has taken the tally to 187 incidents so far this year, compared to just 58 in the same period in 2022.
The affected area spans from Sixth to Eighth Avenues, situated between West 42nd and West 49th Streets, and has become a hotbed for pickpocketing activities, leaving both residents and tourists on edge.
What makes this surge even more troubling is that when apprehended, many of the pickpockets are revealing a common origin – Central and South America.
This revelation has intensified concerns about organized theft rings operating in the area.
Police Officer Joe Soldano, a leader in the NYPD’s specialized Pickpocket Squad, shed light on the tactics employed by these thieves.
Shockingly, some of them resort to using children, including infants, to distract unsuspecting tourists while they execute their thefts.
Soldano recounted a recent incident involving a mother who was caught pickpocketing while pushing her baby in a stroller.
“We had the baby back at the precinct and had to go the whole [child services] route,” Soldano said, underscoring the extent to which these criminals are willing to exploit their own children for their illicit gains.
In many instances, a pickpocketing parent will manipulate their child into engaging tourists.
They direct the child to position themselves in front of the targeted individuals, suddenly stop, or veer to the side, causing accidental contact. While the victim is preoccupied with the child, the parent seizes the opportunity to steal from their pocket or bag.
Officer Soldano shared a particularly daring incident where he managed to apprehend a father in the act of stealing a tourist’s wallet. “I grabbed him with the wallet in his hand…I apprehended him and the kid took off,” he recounted, emphasizing the brazenness of these crimes.
The severity of the pickpocketing issue in Times Square prompted the formation of a 13-member squad in April, dedicated exclusively to combat this rising menace.
The situation continues to be closely monitored by both law enforcement and concerned citizens as efforts are made to curb this troubling trend and maintain the safety of this iconic New York City location.