More pickpocketing as crooks’ high season nears

The number of pickpocket offences is increasing – and police are bracing for another rise in figures as Austrians are flocking to shopping centres and Christmas markets.Federal police announced today (Tues) that they registered around 15,000 reported cases of thefts by pickpockets in the first nine months of this year. They stressed this was a year on year increase of 80 per cent. Figures also show that two out of three victims are women.While police failed to give detailed success rate figures, they warned that more and more thieves succeed by dressing elegantly and engaging their victims in conversation.Internal police reports which leaked to the press earlier this year show that just two to three per cent of pickpocket offences are solved and the victims reunited with their belongings.The number of overall reported crimes in Austria declined by 9.5 per cent year on year to 385,415 between January and September.Police are now gearing up for the expected increase of thefts reported by shoppers across the country as hundreds of thousands of Austrians and tourists are planning to do their Christmas shopping in the remaining days before the festival.Authorities have tried to scare off would-be crooks by sending more officers on patrol on most of the country’s busiest shopping streets and pedestrian areas.Police in Innsbruck, the provincial capital of Tyrol, recently decided to launch an international operation with their Italian colleagues.Officials explained two Italian policemen were currently joining Austrian police officers on patrol at the Christmas markets of the city.They said the Italian officers should manage to avoid communication troubles if Italian tourists become victims of crime.