‘Notorious’ pickpockets ‘easy pickings’ for local police after 13 arrested at grand parade venue

THIRTEEN “notorious” criminal elements from Metro Manila and Ormoc City were arrested by members of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) and the Regional Intelligence Division of the Police Regional Office Central Visayas (PRO 7) for preying on the crowd that watched the Sinulog Grand Parade at the South Road Properties (SRP) on Sunday, January 15, 2023.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Ace Pelare, PRO 7 Director Brigadier General Jerry Bearis’ spokesman, eight of the suspects were women believed to belong to a gang of thieves that operated nationwide.

He said majority of them had a criminal record.

Pelare said they were expecting the group after they received information that its members were planning to victimize Sinulog spectators.

Police are withholding the suspects’ identities since they are still looking for their accomplices.

Pelare said victims started trooping to the Multi-Agency Coordinating Center at the SM Seaside City Cebu one after the other in the morning to report stolen smart phones and wallets.

“The task force commander was here to monitor. We saw that most of the victims were foreigners. Subsequently, we were able to adjust the security and we were able to arrest the suspects,” he said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

He said the suspects were easily caught by police personnel in civilian clothes because the activity was confined to one area unlike when the grand parade was held in uptown Cebu City where they had many hiding places.

He said 20 closed-circuit television cameras were also installed along the parade route to easily monitor the crowd.

PRO 7 Director Bearis said he was satisfied with the overall performance of police personnel who were deployed to secure the venue at the SRP as well as parts of uptown and downtown Cebu City.

He thanked members of different government agencies that assisted the police.

He described the return of Cebu’s grandest festival to be generally peaceful with no untoward incident save for the reported theft cases.

“The reason why it was peaceful was because of the concerted effort of those government agencies, private sectors and other stakeholders. And, of course, the people who participated, the devotees. I’m very thankful,” Bearis said in a mix of Tagalog and English.

Up to 6,000 police personnel were stationed along the grand parade route. They were assisted by members of the Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection, the army, the navy, the air force and employees of different departments of Cebu City Hall like the Cebu City Traffic Office and the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.

CCPO Director Colonel Ireneo Dalogdog ordered his men to shift their attention to the uptown area, particularly along General Maxilom Avenue and Juana Osmeña Street, in the afternoon.

“Akong gipatutukan ang mainland Cebu City kay nagkadaghan na ang mga tawo didto. Naa natay mga personnel nga mobantay aron malikayan ang kagubot,” he said.

(I told them to focus on mainland Cebu City because many people were converging there. We already have personnel stationed in the area to prevent trouble.)

Although Mayor Michael Rama had banned street parties, many people were holding drinking sessions on side streets.

Meanwhile, five of the theft victims were foreigners, three of whom lost their smart phones, while two lost their wallets. (AYB)