Pickpockets could be well dressed or disguised as housewives and trendy youths, police said yesterday as reports rose by more than 50 per cent on Hong Kong Island in the first 10 months of this year. The increase has prompted police to warn the public, especially female shoppers, to beware of their property during Christmas, New Year and the Lunar New Year. To tackle the problem, plain-clothes officers would patrol high-risk areas during the festive season. There were 283 cases between January and October, 50.5 per cent more than the 188 in the same period last year. There were 229 cases in the whole of last year. Most victims were women, targeted while shopping in busy districts and shopping malls, said Chief Inspector Teresa Chiang Shui-ching, the Hong Kong Island regional crime prevention officer. She said the surge was the result of 'less awareness'. 'People don't believe those wearing suits or trendy clothes could be pickpockets. We can't distinguish thieves by their appearances,' she said, adding pickpockets could be disguised as housewives. She reminded the public to take proper care of their property. The methods used by pickpockets are simple, she said. They simply unzip a handbag or cut it open to steal contents, and they also target people whose handbags are wide open. The most high-risk area on Hong Kong Island is around the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay. Police said there had been three pickpocketing reports in one shop within two hours on the same day. Pickpocketing is one of the 'quick-cash' crimes police will crack down on. From tomorrow to February 10, police will take precautionary measures against various crimes. To tackle burglars, plain-clothes officers would check on whether caretakers were doing their jobs properly. The number of burglaries dropped to 648 between January and October from 792 in the same period of last year. Anti-triad officers will also launch an operation against blackmail in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year.