Red Line sleepers: Beware of the pants-cutting pickpocket; crime rate up 16% this year

In the past two weeks I have heard from two different CTA Tattler readers about having their pants sliced on the Red Line and wallets taken by a late-night pickpocket as the victims snoozed on their way home.

wallet cutter pickpocket.jpg

One victim shows his cut jeans where a pickpocket sliced his way to a wallet.

This is a very common ploy. Pickpockets roam train cars late at night looking for passed-out potential victims. Then they slice and dice and make off with a wallet.

But this crime is easy to avoid. Just stay alert and stay awake.

The victim pictured above told me that the day after the incident, “I checked my CTA Card usage online, and the guy got on the train six times between 2:30 am and 4:50 am, all at North/Clybourn, Chicago (Red), and Fullerton.”

That doesn’t surprise me at all. After all he was looking for more victims.

Really folks. Let’s be more careful out there. In 2010, pickpocket crimes on the CTA in Chicago have jumped by almost 16% in 2010 vs. 2009, through August. According to Chicago police crime stats, there have been 464 reported incidents in 2010, vs. 401 in 2009.

But pickpocket thefts on buses are now equaling the rate on trains, after a huge 54% increase in bus pickpockets this year. So keep your guard up wherever you are riding.


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  • The Sun-Times has an article that all sorts of crime is up on the CTA in the past 4 years, except murder, but especially robbery and theft.*

    *Note that robbery is a crime against the person, with the intent to commit a theft. I don't know if cutting the back pocket of pants qualifies.

  • In reply to jack:

    Of course, CTA Tattler first reported in May that crime was soaring on the CTA.

    Jack, regarding your note: Are you serious? Cutting someone's clothing and robbing them of personal property is not a crime against a person?

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    CTA is apparently making some distinction in its statistics.

    Robbery is defined as including the element of force or intimidation.

    Obviously, thieves on the CTA are not engaged in most other forms of theft from passengers, such as embezzlement or burglary (technically only breaking and entry), although if the shell game is still going on, they may be engaged in larceny by false pretenses.

    Apparently, the force and intimidation factor requires more than battery, where any unconsented and offensive contact is sufficient.

    However, since Mary Wisniewski and you seem to be the only investigative reporters on the CTA beat, why don't you ask Noelle, Sheila, or whomever is the spokeswoman of the moment to explain their statistics.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    You should also compare the Illinois statutory definitions of theft and robbery, which would control over any dictionary definition. Interestingly, Illinois classifies robbery as a property crime, not the usual definition of a crime against the person.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Specifically, a robbery is a theft committed by the use of force, or threatened use of force. The increase in pickpocket thefts are part of an increase in crime on the CTA that includes a doubling of reported robberies over the past 4 years. I wrote about it this morning, and linked to your post: CTA crime on the increase

  • In reply to JoetheCop:

    So, does pickpocketing without damage to the clothing count as force or is it just theft? Does using a tool to slice a pocket make it force or harm to the person or both? How about purse-snatching or removal of an item from a purse?

  • In reply to JoetheCop:

    Would it be wrong to bring up karma, or maybe Forrest Gump saying "stupid is as stupid does?"

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    How do thieves get access to the back pocket of someone's pants if said someone is sleeping? I would assume if they're asleep, they're also seated.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Men often shift onto their sides while sleeping on the train, and it exposes the pocket with their wallet in it. If they're drunk and passed out, it's easy for the bad guy to simply move the victim around until he gets access.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Thanks, Joe.

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