A recent study concludes that nearly a fourth of pickpocket crimes in the two holy cities are committed by people who are in the cities solely for the purpose of stealing from pilgrims or are pilgrims themselves who are supplementing their trips by theft.
The report, entitled “The Psychological and Social Impact Pickpockets Have on Pilgrims,” was the result of research by Mahmoud Kasnawi of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Haj Research Institute with the aim of developing strategies to protect pilgrims from such crimes.
The study concluded that 17 percent of the pickpockets in and around the mosque complexes at Makkah and Madinah are there for the sole motive of stealing while 16.5 percent are the pilgrims themselves. The rest are opportunists that steal when the chances arise but aren’t pre-meditating these criminal acts.
The study also contends that 46.5 percent of the pickpockets arrested at the Grand Mosque in Makkah were Egyptians. About one in five people that have been arrested for pick-pocketing are women. About 14 percent of the pickpockets sleep in the Grand Mosque or on the pavements, bridges and tunnels, the study said.
The report underscored the need to minimize the sense of insecurity and loss of mental peace caused by the acts of pickpockets on the pilgrims.
Some gangs use children under the age of 15 to steal from pilgrims. Teenagers account for a third of the pickpockets.
Another finding of the study was that 10 percent of the pickpockets have been for Haj more than once, possibly encouraged to return because of the money they stole during the previous pilgrimage.
The study also said 84 percent of the arrested pickpockets were married while 67 percent of them had their family with them.
While 86 percent of the pickpockets traveled to the Kingdom on their private earnings, the remaining stole the money to pay for the travel expenses.
The study noted that most of the thefts take place close to Kaaba at the time of tawaf (circumambulation) to take advantage of the heavily crowded conditions and the fact that pilgrims often carry with them their valuables.
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