Posing as tourists and working with hotel and shop staff, officers are cracking down on groups in Tsim Sha Tsui Teams of undercover police officers, some disguised as hotel staff and shop assistants, have been deployed to tackle crime syndicates operating in Tsim Sha Tsui. Police say plain-clothes officers will patrol Tsim Sha Tsui in unmarked police cars. They also will pose as tourists. Observation posts are being set up at a number of black spots around the district: places where criminals scout their prey as well as the areas where the crimes - primarily theft and robbery - take place. Senior Inspector Sam Sin Kwok-ming, the head of the anti-opportunistic theft team at Tsim Sha Tsui police station, said his officers, while equipped with walkie-talkies and mobile phones, had to communicate in code and with signals to avoid detection by criminals. 'To avoid my officers being identified by members of these theft syndicates, my officers will have to leave the team and pick up new posts in other units after working with me for about a year,' he said. The unit, set up in 1999, is one of two teams in the force specifically tasked to combat theft. The other team is under the Hong Kong island regional crime unit. Five major theft syndicates are the main targets of the team as police believe they are behind a string of street thefts in the tourist district. 'These criminals normally come from South America, the Philippines and Vietnam and the other two gangs are mainland and local criminals. 'They devise different tactics and pick up different victims,' Senior Inspector Sin said. Among the five theft syndicates, the South American gang, which operates around the world, distracts victims usually by spraying tomato sauce on their clothing or dropping bundles of banknotes on the ground before grabbing valuables and fleeing. Members of the Philippine syndicate often employ a ruse known as tin sin kuk to cheat tourists with elaborate plans. They usually select their victims at popular tourist sightseeing spots like the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui and concoct different stories to chat up victims before enticing them to gamble. The victims will invariably be cheated through card games in the scam. Members of the Vietnamese gang are mainly involved in shop thefts in boutiques, department stores, supermarkets and pharmacies. Local and mainland thieves work with similar tactics and sometimes team up. One of the tactics they use is to drive a taxi or a motorcycle into big crowds at pedestrian crossings. Victims will then be robbed in the confusion. Busy intersections along Nathan Road are their favourite spots. The number of thefts - snatching, pickpocketing, stealing in shops and miscellaneous theft - in Tsim Sha Tsui rose by 10 per cent to 850 in the first nine months this year compared with 772 in the same period last year. The number arrested over theft in the district rose by about 10 per cent to 90 between January and November this year compared with the same period last year. Quick-cash crimes have plagued all districts across Hong Kong as overall theft reports increased by 31 per cent to 30,664 for the first nine months of this year.