Police Warns: Romanian Pickpockets Gangs Operate in Bulgaria
Romanian pickpockets have infested Bulgaria recently. For the first time the police had spotted them at the start of the pandemic. Then they were just on a “guest tour.” Late last year, however, they came for a longer time, even renting a flat in Sofia, Nova TV reported.
There are dozens of their victims robbed in Sofia public transport. In addition to ransacking passengers' bags, these pickpockets earn a minimum of BGN 500 a day, pretending to be deaf-mute.
In early February, while boarding a tram in Macedonia Square, a woman was robbed by a Romanian.
"I was talking on the phone, unfortunately, and my bag was half-open. I felt someone pulling it, but I couldn't react as I was getting on. The tram closed the doors. Inside, I found out my purse was gone. Besides the credit card, I carried a significant amount of money to pay my taxes. Somewhere around BGN 800," the victim recounted.
On the same day other public transport passengers had their wallets stolen. They met at the police station.
"An elderly woman, with a cane was crying in the police reception room. She explained that they stole her pension. She said she had no family and did not know how she would survive the month.
In the last two months, there have been 70 complaints received at the Urban Mobility Center.
"For over three months now, all public transport vehicles have been equipped with CCTV cameras. Everything is recorded and transmitted in real time. The video is transmitted to the competent authorities, I can assure you that it is almost impossible to do anything in public transport that would pass unnoticed", Dimitar Dilchev from the Urban Mobility Center said.
Romanian pickpockets came to Bulgaria at the end of last year. They rented an apartment and started robbing public transport passengers and shops customers.
"Basically, they go to Athens to steal. But now because of the pandemic and the restrictions around Europe, they cannot travel. That's why they settled in Sofia. This is where they live, we've found their apartment. It is rented through a booking platform, as there is no direct contact with the person who gives the apartment for rent. Everything that's been stolen they keeps in the apartment. The stolen Items were found. An investigation is currently underway to evidence their criminal activity", said Head of the Street Crime Department of Sofia Police Directorate Plamen Maksimov.
Six Romanians have been detained. They're all from Craiova. "These are two women and four men. Depending on where they go and how they work, they take turns. For example, two women with two men or four men with one woman," he explained.
Romanians use all sorts of tricks and methods to divert the attention of the victim and rob her.
"For example, when boarding, one of them drops his keys. There's a crowd of people getting on the bus. There’s always a commotion. At this point, one woman opens the victim’s bag. The moment she snags the purse, the bus doors close and one of the Romanians goes to the driver and tells him they had the wrong stop. The conversation is in broken Bulgarian-Romanian and the driver immediately opens the doors, so they get out along with the purse they took," Maksimov added.
"We also have cases where the pickpocket approaches the victim, pulls out a razor blade, very dexterously begins to cut the back pocket. The moment the citizen gets off the bus, the pickpocket pulls out his wallet and hops back on the bus. The man didn't even know anyone came near him. Close to the person who was cutting the pocket, there were others who were his screen," Maksimov added.
Security camera footage shows a woman being robbed on her way to the subway without ever knowing that someone is ransacking her backpack.
"Their last booty was BGN 1,200," he said. However, this is due to the fact that most people write down their PIN code on the card. When they find out that there is a card in the wallet, they immediately go to the ATM and withdraw all money", said Maksimov.
Their scams don't end there. They also specialize in another scheme. If they don't pick bags, they're posing as deaf-mute in front of our big store chains, police say. Every day they are brought from Romania by specially organized transport. They travel back at night.
"They come by bus from Romania, they drive them in the morning, leave them and the gang is up and around Sofia all day, and they go everywhere," he added.
The invasion of the Romanian robbers in Bulgaria was noted at the beginning of the pandemic. Then the Bulgarian pickpockets ceded the turf. The most skillful go to steal abroad.
"The cash they make is quite huge. If in Europe, for example, they make EUR 10,000, here they make BGN 10,000 a month. This only per one person. However, they work in teams of five. So they make pretty good money, tax-free," Maksimov explained.
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