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Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council on October 30:
It has been reported that in the first eight months of this year, the number of pickpocketing cases on Hong Kong Island recorded an increase of 26.5% over the same period last year. It has been learnt that some pickpockets are mainlanders who came to Hong Kong with the intent of committing crimes. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the respective numbers of pickpocketing cases in various districts of Hong Kong in the first eight months of this year;
(b) whether it has assessed the reasons for the rise in the number of pickpocketing cases on Hong Kong Island this year; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(c) of the detection rate of pickpocketing cases in Hong Kong last year; whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the Police’s efforts in combating such crimes at present; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(d) given reports that pickpockets from the Mainland usually commit crimes in Hong Kong in gangs of two or three persons, of the corresponding counter-measures adopted by the Police; whether the Police will step up its publicity efforts to urge members of the public to help one another in fighting against such crimes; and
(e) whether it has assessed if the penalties meted out in general to pickpockets by courts in Hong Kong are adequate to deter mainland pickpockets from committing crimes in Hong Kong; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
In addition to the prevention and combat of pickpocketing through a number of measures, the Police take enforcement actions against offenders of different nationalities or races in Hong Kong in a non-discriminatory manner.
The Administration’s reply to the question raised by the Member is as follows:
(a) In the first eight months of 2013, there were 943 pickpocketing cases recorded in Hong Kong, a decrease of 68 cases or 6.7% against 1,011 cases in the same period in 2012. Figures of pickpocketing cases in various districts in the first eight months of this year are at Annex.
(b) In the first eight months of 2013, there were 277 pickpocketing cases recorded in the Hong Kong Island Region, an increase of 58 cases or 26.5% against the same period in last year, and there was a relatively significant rise of pickpocketing cases in bars of Lan Kwai Fong.
The number of restaurants and bars with liquor licences has increased by 13 from 2012 to August 2013, and crowded bars are always prone to pickpocketing.
To combat crime, including pickpocketing, in Lan Kwai Fong, the Central Police District regularly launches large-scale anti-crime operations in high profile, inspecting premises selling liquor and places of entertainment during weekends and holidays. In addition, anti-pickpocket operations are conducted at such premises to safeguard the property of the public.
On another front, a consultative group formed by the Central Police District and stakeholders of premises selling liquor in Central held three meetings from January 2012 to October 2013 for the purpose of publicity and public education on preventive measures against pickpocketing and theft. A total of 300 participants have participated in these meetings.
(c) & (d) In 2012, there were totally 1,540 pickpocketing cases recorded in Hong Kong with a detection rate of 14.7%. In the first eight months of 2013, the detection rate was 14.3%, quite the same as that of last year.
The Police have adopted a number of measures to combat pickpocketing, particularly against organised pickpocketing activities.
As regards law enforcement, the Police have stepped up patrol and surveillance at pickpocket black spots, and in the light of district conditions, deployed officers with anti-pickpocket experience to combat such activities. Frontline officers have also been provided with specific anti-pickpocket training.
In the area of intelligence gathering, the Police have strengthened intelligence gathering and cross-sector co-operation by means of communication channels with management staff of shopping malls and shops for the combat and prevention of pickpocketing. Intelligence-led operations are also conducted to raid shops suspected to receive stolen items through pickpocketing.
As regards publicity and education, the Fight Crime Committee continues to adopt “Mind Your Belongings” as one of the themes of its 2013-14 fight crime publicity campaign. The Police also augment public vigilance and crime prevention awareness through different channels, such as bus body advertisements, TV announcements, posters and Hong Kong Police YouTube. Furthermore, a variety of fight crime publicity campaigns are regularly conducted in various Police districts. Schools and uniform groups are invited to join effort in distributing publicity leaflets to remind the public of the points to note about “anti-quick cash crimes” so as to avoid being victims of such crimes.
To enhance public awareness of crime prevention, the Police have been introducing common mode of operation of pickpocketing through the TV programme “Police Magazine”. The public are reminded to keep their property well attended at all times, particularly at crowded places where they should keep their personal belongings, such as handbags and backpacks, to the front or in safe custody.
(e) According to section 9 of Theft Ordinance (Cap. 210, Laws of Hong Kong), any person who commits theft shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction upon indictment to imprisonment for 10 years. When meting out sentences to offenders, the court generally takes into consideration a number of factors, such as how serious the case is and whether the convicted is a repeated offender. The Police will pay close attention to the effectiveness of their anti-pickpocket measures.