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Elephant & Castle: Colombian pickpocket gang jailed

Four pensioners are among a group of seven Colombian men and women jailed for pickpocketing after a covert operation by police at Elephant & Castle, Walworth Road and Brixton.

The pickpockets were responsible for 25 thefts, including many on board buses. On Wednesday they were each jailed for three years following a trial at Croydon Crown Court.

The seven, all Colombian nationals of no fixed abode, range in age from 34 to 69.

The gang came to the attention of the Metropolitan Police safer transport command after they committed a series of crimes during 2010 and 2011 in and around London's transport network but could not be identified from CCTV footage.

Intelligence was being collated on the gang when their activities abruptly stopped. However in 2012 it became apparent that the team had resurfaced and they continued to commit numerous thefts across London using the same tactics.

Officers trawled intelligence reports and finally identifications were made of the gang of pickpockets.

The seven were arrested together last November following a covert operation in and around Brixton tube station, Elephant & Castle and Walworth Road.

As the police officers watched, the gang prepared to commit a theft targeting people who had withdrawn money from a bank and the officers moved in and arrested all seven.

The gang was found to be carrying makeup which they used to spray on victims' coats. They would then assist victims in cleaning it off whilst another gang member stole their money.

They had drawing pins, nails and tacks which they would drop on the floor in front of the victim, again whilst taking their money. Most of the victims, often elderly, were chosen after they had been seen by a gang member withdrawing money from a bank.

The particular methods they used linked them to their previous crimes which resulted in further evidence for the charges. All seven suspects were charged with conspiracy to steal between 2010 and 2012 in London; a total of 25 offences were identified.

"This is an excellent result which has seen a team of professional and prolific pickpockets receive a robust judicial outcome with a lengthy time in jail," said Chief Superintendent Sultan Taylor.

"The safer transport command has a primary aim to safeguard the travelling public from criminals and to keep them safe whilst using London's bus system.

"If you commit an offence on the transport network, you will be caught. The message is clear: Crime on London's bus system will not be tolerated – the safer transport command will arrest and charge those responsible."

Siwan Hayward from Transport for London said: "These latest convictions against seven notorious pickpockets are testament to the hard work and determination that both TfL and the Metropolitan Police Service put into preventing crime across London every single day."

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