A 48-year-old man, Henry Ate, yesterday told police in Lagos that he and other pickpockets usually operate in shifts – morning and evening – in the Lagos metropolis.
Ate and seven others were arrested by officials of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) as pickpockets.
The RRS also arrested seven others as “one-chance” robbers.
All the suspects were arrested at Ajegunle area and Mile 2. The RSS gave the names of the suspects as Ate, Akeem Fatai (42), Jerry Nwokoro (24), Olayinka Tadius (29), Lucky Thompson (36), Stanley Augustine (31) and Ubah Kenneth (25). Others are Habib Narudeen (17), Oyemi Ilesanmi (23), Kenneth Okojie (30), Chinedu Uzubi (24), Ajakaiye Christopher (30), Samson Uwaneze (23), and Wasiu Kazeem 24; while Chinedu Godwin (32), a suspected pickpocket, was apprehended at Mile 2.
The police also recovered two commercial buses with registration number KTU 716XS and GGE 532XL used by the suspects.
According to RRS, the arrest was made possible following a tip-off from the members of the public about the incessant attacks of the suspects.
According to Ate, after their operation they retire to hotel in the afternoon and then regroup later in the evening.
He said: “As at the time we were arrested, more than half of us had gone out for the morning operation, but seven of us were arrested at various bus stops along Oshodi-Mile 2 routes.
As pickpockets, we know one another. We have no other jobs than what we do; it is what we depend on.” The suspect added that, occasionally, the pickpockets work with “one-chance” robbers.
According to him, the operation involves a bus driver, conductor and a pickpocket who seats mostly at the back seat of the bus.
He added: “Whenever we are going on operation, we only pick about two to four passengers and dispossess them of their belongings and drop them by the roadside before speeding off.
But we don’t push down any passenger we have robbed. “If I decide not go out with my gang, I always prefer to pickpocket alone at Shoprite and Governor’s Office area.”
Six of the suspects confessed to the police that they operate from Mile 2 to Oshodi and Oshodi to Iyana-Ipaja routes.
Pastor Emeka Ndukwe, one of their victims, narrated how his phone was removed from his pocket inside the bus at Iyana-Ipaja area.
He said: “I only noticed my phone was removed when I wanted to buy something at the bus stop.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Dolapo Badmos, who confirmed the arrest of the suspects, said there would be no hiding place for criminals in Lagos.
She, however, said the suspects would soon be charged to court.