Bad Godesberg · Because pickpocketing is on the rise, police are out talking to people in the pedestrian area around Theaterplatz in Bad Godesberg, warning of the the risks and informing them about what they can do to avoid becoming a victim.
Hans Jürgen Hoppe is an experienced expert in crime prevention, working for the Bonn police. On Tuesday morning, he only needed a few minutes to identify passers-by on Theaterplatz who would be easy pickpockets. One example, he identified a well-dressed senior citizen who, leaning on her walker, was heading for a café: Handbag in front of her in the open basket of her walker. The next potential victim quickly passed by: a woman with a shopping bag that was wide open on all sides and carried on her shoulder.
The next vulnerable person was a woman whose bag was dangling carelessly from her stroller while she was busy trying to calm her screaming child in the stroller. According to Hoppe, this unwittingly creates opportunities for pickpockets to commit crimes. Women are often affected, especially senior citizens. Since the number of pickpocketing crimes is on the rise again, especially in Bad Godesberg, police were out informing passers-by, having set up an information booth on Theaterplatz.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns, pickpockets have had a hard time: people stayed at home, the city centers were often empty. There were no more large events or gatherings. And this was reflected in the number of pickpocketing crimes, says Michael Beyer, spokesman for the Bonn police: "In the entire jurisdiction of the Bonn police, a total of 884 pickpockets were reported in 2020." This was the lowest level since 1997, he says.
Pickpockets are hard to catch
In the meantime, however, many restrictions have been lifted and the city centers are attracting more people again. Police are all too aware of this: "In the current year, the numbers are rising again, especially in the Bad Godesberg district," emphasizes police spokesman Beyer. For the police, the pursuit of pickpockets is often difficult: "The perpetrators often proceed, working within a team and escape undetected in the crowds, even before the theft is noticed," explains Detective Chief Inspector Gerald Ohletz, head of the Criminal Investigation Department for Crime Prevention: "They usually work very professionally and often only need a few seconds to steal wallets, cell phones and other valuables from bags and clothing.”
That's why Ohletz and Hoppe were out distributing "alarm bells”, already familiar to some people from previous prevention events: The small device is equipped with a fastener to be placed in handbags and is supposed to ring if someone tries to grab the bag, alerting the owner.
People should expect thieves to use distraction tactics
Ohletz and Hoppe also urge people to take the following advice: when out and about in crowds, you should always expect distraction tactics from the thieves. Hence the police's advice: "Be suspicious if you are approached by strangers - with whatever request." And as a rule of thumb: valuables and documents should not be carried in the handbag, but instead distributed in closed inner pockets of jackets and coats, or in a neck pouch or money belt. Furthermore, backpacks, handbags or shoulder bags should always be carried closed under the arm in busy areas, with the closure facing the body.
(Orig. text: Axel Vogel / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)