SOUTH LOOP — It's the most wonderful time of the year ... for pickpockets.
The holiday season can be a bonanza for pickpockets and other thieves, and Chicago Police are asking shoppers and residents to be on the lookout this year.
There are as many as 50 active pickpockets in the police's database, said Commander Cindy Sam of the Chicago Police Public Transportation Division. (Police said there were 165 active pickpockets in the database in 2012.)
"Criminals are opportunists," Sam said. "They will take advantage of crowded settings."
Instances of pickpocketing have not been on the rise in Chicago, Sam said. But the holiday season is when the activity picks up. With the help of Chicago Police, here are the some common pickpocketing scenarios and how to guard yourself against theft.
Don't get pinned in
In this scenario, the victim is caught behind a thief, even if the man is only doing the boxing in. The victim gets caught behind the man, which allows his partner to come from behind and steal his wallet. (Watch for the second man's red wallet, sticking out of his pants pocket)
This scenario is common in crowded places like stores and festivals, police said.
"You've got so many things going on, and your guard is down," Sam said. "You've got a lot of opportunists out there."
Pickpockets and other thieves generally work in groups, so look out for a group of suspicious people. Keep your wallet in a front pant pocket or inner jacket pocket, or hold your purse tight against the front of your torso, police said.
Pay attention to any personal contact
Thieves can use what appears to be an inadvertent collision to help distract their victims, police said. If a stranger bumps you, work to determine if any belongings are stolen as soon as possible. And make as much eye contact as possible — it signals to would-be thieves that you are aware and could possibly remember their face.
Look for obvious distractions
In this scenario, a woman approaches a man to ask for directions, then her partner walks up and grabs the man's tablet. One way to prevent such a scenario is to keep your belongings secured.
"Resist the temptation to use electronic devices" in public, Sam said.
The scenarios were acted out by plainclothes officers and pulled from police reports, police said.
The officers also suggested that people take their recently purchased gifts and secure them in a locked trunk, away from where thieves could see them. Be aware of people seeking to hide their face, and stay in lighted areas in public.
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