Using a package to shield her hand from view, a suspected pickpocket brazenly leans over a woman shopping to surreptitiously riffle through her handbag.
The alleged thief’s victim is completely unaware of the actions going on just a few inches above her, as fellow customers stand either side, oblivious.
But watching from above is a CCTV that captures the incident on film, in footage that has now been viewed more than a million times on TikTok.
It’s one of several videos racking up huge views on @london_content, which claims to show alleged criminals in the act.
The account was set up by a man known only as ‘James’, who claims to have worked as a plain-clothes private security officer for 21 years.
Captured on camera: a suspected pickpocket dressed in black is filmed appearing to riffle through the bag of a woman as she looks at something on a bottom shelf. Footage of the alleged incident has been seen more than one million times after being shared on TikTok
Another video on the @london_content account claimed to capture the moment an alleged shoplifter struck at a clothing shop in the capital
And in this video, an alleged shoplifter is seen removing items from what appears to be a secret pocket hidden in her dress
James, who hasn’t revealed his full name, claimed he often films people he detains working in London’s busy Oxford Street to show to police or share with colleagues over WhatsApp.
However, since February, his videos have found a new home on his TikTok account, which has ballooned in popularity and now boasts more than 115,000 followers.
In his most-watched video, seen more than 30 million times, an alleged shoplifter can be seen dumping items from her skirt, while Sam Smith’s song ‘Unholy’ plays in the background.
The video’s caption simply reads: ‘She’s got caught.’
Other videos on the social media account purportedly claim to show people pickpocketing in the street, stealing clothes from a shop or suggesting some people might be part of a ‘begging scam’.
Social media vigilante James claims his videos are helping people, raising awareness about the potential methods used by criminals.
‘I’ve had people comment thanking me, saying that it’s helped them spot pickpockets on the streets,’ he told Wired. ‘And people love the content.’
But his videos have led to claims he is stoking fear among the community.
One video claims to show the moment an alleged thief was caught and forced to dump out large quantities of make-up allegedly stolen from a London shop
Another video claims to have filmed the moment and suspected shoplifter allegedly stole clothes from a store
Stefan Bloch, a professor of cultural geography and critical criminology at the University of Arizona, said footage showing people allegedly carrying out crimes would worsen paranoia about the level of crime in an area.
‘The only positive effect that these videos could have is holding people with more power accountable,’ he told Wired.
James is not the only justice warrior posting content appearing to show criminals caught in the act.
Footage of alleged petty crimes have a huge audience on the Chinese-owned social media app, with the ‘theft’ hashtag having more than 1.5billion views.
Other accounts like @stolenwatchgroup, @gasstationthieves0 and @shoplifterhero share similar videos.
But there are others, too, making a living exposing the tricks that pickpockets and thieves use to bag their ill-gotten gains.
Lee Thompson, 54, from Pickpocket for Hire, is among those helping to raise awareness of the thefts.
He said there were ways to spot a pickpocket that all people should look out for.
Lee Thompson (pictured above, in the middle holding a watch) from Pickpocket for Hire claims that shoplifters aren’t scared of police as when they ‘get caught, they… will get a slap on the wrist’. He has now given out his top tips on how to avoid falling victim to thieves
Warning people to be on their guard in crowded areas, he added: ‘If there is a gang of people getting off and on the train or watching people… be vigilant.
‘If someone is standing very close to you, be wary that they might be digitally pickpocketing you by drawing out your information.’
Other things to look out for include thieves trying to ‘distract’ their victims at cash points ‘by dropping coins’ on the floor as their target puts in their PIN code.
‘The person will snatch your card so be aware of your surroundings.
‘Never go to the hole in the wall, always walk into your bank and take out cash that way,’ he added.
People should also be wary of potential thieves using scooters, bikes or mopeds to carry out snatch and grabs – and the spotters on the street who will be looking to target future victims.
As well as giving pointers on avoiding unscrupulous characters,
Mr Thompson also said he was worried about the amount of petty crime.
He said he was ‘shocked’ at the rise in self-checkouts in stores, which he says enables thieves to just ‘simply walk away’.
He told MailOnline: ‘CCTV is not much of a deterrent any more, and it is certainly not going to stop them [shoplifters] from entering the shop because they know they can get in and out before the police get there.
‘And even if they get caught, they aren’t scared and will get a slap on the wrist.’
He added: ‘If there is no one in the shop, who’s to stop you from running in and running away. Obviously there are people who are legal wary and don’t do that.
‘But a criminal doesn’t care. He sees the item is there on the shelf and takes it.
‘I am just gobsmacked at this new system.’
This is how to spot a pickpocket according to the Met Police
These include people loitering in public places who appear to be checking out passers-by, paying particular interest to their handbags, shopping bags and where they might place their wallet or purse.
For example, be aware of individuals who appear to be focusing their attention on the waist area of others. This may be an indication of criminal intent and probable theft. But do bear in mind the fact that some people are naturally shy and do avoid eye contact. Always follow your instincts.
Pickpockets also operate in shops and department stores, where people are more likely to be standing still, distracted and so paying less attention to their belongings, making them an easier target.
Be more aware of your surroundings in busy shops and shopping centres because they’re ideal places for pickpockets, as it’s easier for them to brush past people, take items and blend into the crowd.
Pickpockets don’t always operate alone, they may work in teams to distract the target while someone unseen removes the items and blends back into the crowd. Another member might step in as an enforcer in the event of an altercation.
Thieves vary their tactics based on the location and the density of the crowd. One tactic is where a group of them push up against a victim in a crowded shop or street then quickly reach into the victim’s pocket and steal their wallet, phone or purse.
Remember, pickpockets are very skilled at what they do. They know all the tricks and are extremely light-fingered with most of their thefts only taking a second or two. One of their tactics is ‘hugger mugging’ where a thief will appear to be over-friendly for no particular reason and hug you while pickpocketing you.
The point of distraction:
Pickpocket teams are adept at creating distractions. This could be anything from a game to a loud shout, all designed to avert your attention while an unseen accomplice steals your valuables. So do try not to be easily distracted.
Source: Met Police
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11998767/Caught-red-handed-pickpockets-exposed-new-TikTok-craze.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490&rand=1270