Child Pickpocket Ring Busted Near Shanghai

By Rachel Deason, January 3, 2017

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Two women have been accused of renting child pickpockets to steal wallets and phones from shops in Qingpu, Songjiang and Jiading districts.

The thieving children were traced back to Daoxian County in central China’s Hubei province, where they were rented out by their parents for more than RMB50,000 a year. One little thief, identified as Wenwen, was interviewed by the prosecutors, who learned that she was the fifth of six children in her family and was not registered under China’s Hukou system. She said she had never attended kindergarten, and while physical tests revealed her to be aged 6 or 7, her mental development was that of a 4-year-old.

Wenwen said that the accused aunties taught her a game of “hide and seek,” which she liked. As the aunties talked up shop owners, Wenwen would rifle through the bags of shop assistants, searching for wallets and iPhones. “We don’t want domestic phones,” she said.

If Wenwen succeeded, she was rewarded with candy. If she failed, she was beaten.

The accused women, both in their 30s, had been caught 11 times from 2006 to 2011 for the same crime, but prosecutors always lacked sufficient evidence and the women were let go.

Now, they are not being tried for theft but instead for “organizing minors to engage in activities against the social welfare,” a crime that was added to the national criminal law in 2009. If found guilty, the women face three to seven years in prison.

Efforts are also being made to track down the parents of the three child thieves used by the women. The parents could be stripped of guardianship and may be brought to court.

[Image via Shanghai Daily]

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