Two suspected pickpockets from China were on Friday indicted on theft charges as authorities warned of petty criminals from across the Taiwan Strait.
People should guard their personal belongings at popular tourist sites and the Lantern Festival events that started yesterday, police said.
Taipei prosecutors charged two Chinese, surnamed Gong (龔) and Chen (陳), with pickpocketing after they were twice allegedly caught red-handed in Taipei’s Yongkang Street area and in front of Taipei 101 earlier last month.
Photo: Lin Hsin-han, Taipei Times
A third man, surnamed Li (黎), was part of the team of three, but ran away, took a taxi to the airport and boarded a flight to China, officials said.
The trio was among several Chinese groups active in Taiwan, with police in Kaohsiung also reporting that they are tailing a pickpocket group, prosecutors said.
The trio in Taipei entered Taiwan on tourist visas in December last year, investigators said, adding that they targeted Japanese and other foreign travelers at popular tourist spots, commercial areas and night markets.
Taipei police said that they last month arrested members of a Chinese pickpocket group, after several members were caught stealing from tourists at the Taipei Martyrs’ Shrine.
The thieves all carried Chinese passports and operated at the Martyrs’ Shrine, Taipei 101 and Jiufen Old Street (九份老街) in New Taipei City’s Rueifang District (瑞芳).
Authorities responded to reports filed by groups representing tour guides that travelers had been robbed.
Many of the victims were Japanese traveling in tour groups, who were targeted because they are easy to spot and are unfamiliar with the surroundings, reports said, adding that criminals believe that Japanese carry more money and expensive items.
The groups demanded that the authorities act, saying that warnings that Taiwan is not that safe were spreading by word of mouth in Japan, possibly deterring some travelers from visiting.
Police have stepped up surveillance and added plainclothes police officers at tourist sites, they said.
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