© mtainfo/YouTube
NYPD Transit Chief Jason Wilcox addresses the transit committee.
Pickpocketing is now so rampant on the subways that the NYPD Transit Bureau has formed a special team of detectives and officers dedicated solely to nailing perpetrators, officials said Tuesday.

"As the ridership and trains have become more crowded, we have seen an increase in grand larceny this year — 51% so far," Transit Chief Jason Wilcox told MTA board members at a bus and transit committee meeting.

"One quarter of these grand larcenies are fueled by the increase in pickpocket crime," Wilcox said.

He said the new squad is made up of "hand-picked, skilled" cops.

The NYPD has formed such teams in the past as needed, he said.

The group will track "pickpocket crime activity" and "attack it," focusing on "known recidivists," Wilcox said.

While grand larcenies are up over last year, their overall numbers remain below 2019 levels, or pre-pandemic, when ridership was higher, according to the latest NYPD data.

Before the pandemic, in January 2020, there were 151 grand larcenies. By July 2020, there were just 33 that month, as ridership plummeted.

Meanwhile, cops recorded 108 grand larcenies in the system last month, according to the latest statistics.

NYPD Transit Chief Jason Wilcox addresses the transit committee.mtainfo/YouTube

Officials are aware of many of the recidivists, Wilcox said — adding that some of them are the same thieves he dealt with as a transit cop 10 years ago.

He described one recent incident in which Transit Bureau cops followed a repeat offender immediately after his trial for one grand larceny offense, only to witness the man immediately rob an elderly woman before getting on the subway in Chinatown.

Cops are warning New Yorkers and visitors to stay vigilant as the city grows more crowded around Christmas and New Year's.

"Pickpockets are not new to transit — they are an old nemesis to the transit system," Wilcox said. "And they will now be drawn to the large crowds out shopping during the holiday season."