NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tired commuters often doze off on the subway, and experts warn that they could be a target for thieves.

It did not take long at all for CBS2’s Weijia Jiang to find sleeping straphangers, and she woke a few of them up to ask about it. One straphanger admitted that while he tries not to fall on the subway, it does happen often.

But the tired commuters are a top target for an old crime that is making a dangerous comeback.

“It’s a new form of pickpocketing, only a much more aggressive form,” said security expert Frank Drake.

Police said career crooks are using box cutters and razor blades to cut the pockets of passengers who are dozing off. And such suspects are hard to catch, because by the time the victims realize what happened, the criminals are long gone.

“It’s very quick. They can just go in there (slash, slash slash); and they take it right out,” Drake said.

Just Friday, police arrested a Brooklyn man who is accused of striking at least 20 times. In a CBS2 exclusive, they showed an assortment of wallets and credit cards, and 18 cellphones, that they said the man stole.

Drake, a retired NYPD officer, said it is easy to spot vulnerable people. Jiang and Drake saw one man sleeping with a jacket on, clutching a backpack.

“If somebody gingerly lifts up that jacket, and has a razor, they can get that wallet out quickly,” Drake said.

Even though the man, Francisco Palcios, was clutching his backpack, his pockets were exposed.

Jiang sat down next to him and delivered the wake-up call.

“I know that; this is so dangerous, but sometimes we are so tired,” Palcios said.

More police in plain clothes are now patrolling subway stations to catch those responsible, and some officers are even using themselves as bait – pretending to fall asleep on the train.


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