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‘Pickpocket eyes’ give away elderly man in theft

TOKYO (TR) – With 2020 winding down, law enforcement departments nationwide ade looking to round out the year with a positive public image.

To wit, news outlets last month ran footage of police in Saitama Prefecture going to great efforts to nab a coin thief at a shrine.

This week, it was Tokyo Metropolitan Police targeting an elderly pickpocket — and it was, apparently, his eyes that gave him away.

On Tuesday, officers arrested Mitsuji Kuramoto, 76, on suspicion of theft in Kita Ward. He allegedly stole 30,000 yen in cash from inside the bag of a woman in her 80s as she shopped at a clothing store near JR Komagome Station.

In animation provided by the network that recreates the crime, a figure shown to be Kuramoto approaches another figure (the woman) from behind. As he pulls her bag from her cart, several other figures (officers) surround him.

“I did it for money,” Kuramoto told police in admitting to the allegations.

Police apprehended a suspected pickpocket near JR Komagome Station on Tuesday (Twitter)

“Pickpocket eyes”

The manager of the store tells the network, “I heard that [pickpockets] are aiming for people who are shopping in small shopping streets, rather than big stores.”

For this reason, officers were on patrol in the area. Prior to the aforementioned theft, one of them had been tailing Kuramoto for about an hour.

The officer then noticed him behaving suspiciously — specifically, it was his eyes targeting the woman’s cart. According to the network, police refer to such a stare as “pickpocket eyes.”

“Pickpocket eyes” of Mitsuji Kuramoto (Twitter)

“Success requires a lot of skill”

Narumi Sasaki, a former investigator for the Saitama Prefectural Police, tells the network that it is difficult to catch a talented pickpocket.

“There are special divisions in police departments targeting pickpockets,” says Sasaki, “and the officers in those divisions operate in plain clothes. Success requires a lot of skill. You can’t chase [the criminal] too aggressively. However, if you back off, you might miss the crime.”

Sasaki says that officers must develop the ability to “see through the eyes” of pickpockets.

“When [a pickpocket] is out for the purpose of theft, their eye movements are quite unnatural,” the former investigator says, “For that reason, being trained to understand the movements of ordinary people is very important.”