NEW YORK -- The NYPD says pickpocket crimes are on the rise and it's beefing up the prevention plan for big events, like the .
In the middle of all the sights during the holiday season in Midtown Manhattan, there's one thing Sgt. John Pritchard and the NYPD don't want anyone to see: the pickpocket unit.
"We usually do the best to blend in with the crowd," said Pritchard. "If they're staring at the tree, taking pictures, we'll do the same thing. We'll have our phones out taking pictures."
But they're not just taking pictures. They're scanning for thieves who are trying to snag cellphones and wallets.
Pickpocketing has been on the rise since about 2021, according to the NYPD. So far, there have been 2,200 pickpocket victims in 2023, compared to just under 2,000 in 2022.
"We've seen more organized crews, where we see actually families of cousins, five, six, doing these picks and dips across the city," said Chief Michael Lipetri.
The thieves often target the most vulnerable, like teenagers or the elderly.
To deter pickpockets, the NYPD says keep valuables in front pockets, bags zipped and in front of you, and don't keep anything in loose pockets.
"iPhone 15 is what, like $1,400? They're expensive phones. I know they send them over to other countries and they sell them for parts and they get enough money out of it. For one phone they can get $200 out of it," said Lt. Jonathan Cedeno.
The pickpocket unit is only about a year old and has a small office in a Midtown subway station. But the NYPD said it's already expanding to fight the increase in pickpocket crimes.
According to the NYPD, the pickpocket unit made 13 arrests on Wednesday night.
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