Pickpockets on prowl target women

By Manjima Dhakal

Kathmandu, May 1: Samira Shrestha, a grade 11 student, a few weeks ago, was waiting for bus at Ratna Park to return home after college. She was listening to music in her mobile phone through an earphone. To her dismay, someone snatched the mobile phone from her hand and ran away. 

When she sought help from the people standing by, two boys ran after the phone snatcher. She felt happy that the boys would bring back her gadget. But her happiness did not last long when the two did hug the pickpocket after they reached a few meters away. It turned out that the two were the accomplice of the phone-snatcher.
This is a new technique adopted by the pack of thieves in the crowded areas of the Kathmandu Valley.
Another Kathmandu commuter, Krishnaa Sapkota, was targeted by pickpockets last week also at Ratna Park while she was trying to get on a microbus. According to Sapkota, she was in a hurry to catch a bus to return her home. While she was struggling to get on the bus, she felt someone had tried to open the zipper of her hand bag. She pushed back the hand that tried to open her handbag two times, but the person tried to open the bag for the third time during when she identified the person. She slapped on the pickpocket’s face. But she was unable to report the incident to the police because she was with her small daughter.
It is generally found that the main target of pickpockets are women, especially those carrying their children, elderly persons, persons carrying many bags with them and persons who appear to be a newcomer to Kathmandu, said Bishal Lama, conductor of a local microbus.
According to Lama, mainly four to five pickpockets gather at the door of the moving vehicles to turn the doorway a bit crowded so that they would have a good chance to rob the passengers.
People traveling to and from Ranipokhari area have shared their bitter experience that sometimes a big number of pickpockets had tried to rob them. Opposing them would prove dangerous for one’s safety, some passengers said. “The gang of pickpockets may attack you.”
Rita Pandey, another commuter, said that some police personnel are in collusion with these pickpockets.
"This has posed a challenged in curbing incidents of pickpocketing in the Kathmandu Valley," she lamented.

A police record of the arrested pickpockets supports Pandey’s accusation.
In the last nine months of current fiscal year, only 69 pickpockets were arrested from the Kathmandu Valley under its ‘Safety Pin’ Operation. Of them, only three were arrested from Metropolitan Police Office, Ranipokhari, 38 were arrested from Metropolitan Police Office, Kathmandu, 28 from Metropolitan Police Office, Lalitpur. The Safety Pin Operation mainly focused on reducing sexual violence against women along with other criminal activities.
However, the police officials denied accusation levelled against them. Shyam Gyawali, spokesperson at the Metropolitan Police Office, Ranipokhari, said they mobilised police officials in civil dress across the valley. The officials are mobilized mainly in public transport where there are high risks of pickpocketing.
The police can’t keep pickpockets in custody more than 25 days. As such, the arrested pickpockets return to their profession as soon as they are released.
The skyrocketing prices, unemployment, lack of education, ambition in youths to make quick money for leading a modern life, hating to do manual job are some of the reasons behind increasing number of pickpockets in the country, said Gyawali. 

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