Police are on the hunt for two men who posed as plain-clothes officers and fled with a paper bag containing HK$210,000 after a bogus stop-and-search on an elderly victim in Hong Kong.
The New Year’s Day incident occurred on Kin Wing Street near the junction with Kin Tai Street in Tuen Mun soon after 6pm, when the victim, 63, was stopped by the pair.
“The two men impersonated officers and demanded to check the victim’s identity card,” a police spokesman said. “At this juncture, they snatched a paper bag containing HK$210,000 from the man and fled on foot.”
The victim gave chase, but called police after he lost track of the suspects.
Officers combed the area but no arrests were made on Wednesday.
Police described the two robbers as each being about 1.7 metres in height and in their 30s. One of them had on a green jacket and blue pants, while the other was clad in black at the time of the incident.
On Monday, a 40-year-old man was robbed of a bag containing HK$500,000 at knifepoint on Ashley Road in the popular shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui at about 7.30pm. Three masked robbers fled before police arrived. The man suffered minor hand injuries but he did not require hospital treatment.
There has been a significant rise in reports of robbery and snatch theft across Hong Kong in the second half of 2019, with the force blaming the ongoing anti-government protests for exhausting police resources.
Police handled 170 reports of robbery from January to November 2019, up nearly 28 per cent from 133 in the same period the previous year.
Reports of snatch thefts surged 44 per cent to 163 in the same span last year, from 113 cases during this period in 2018.
Since last August, police have stopped foot patrols across the city because of the civil unrest and backlash against the force, with the risk of officers being attacked. Patrols are now conducted in police vans instead.
The annual winter anti-crime operation, carried out between the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays, was also cancelled because of police diverting resources to handling protests.
Hong Kong has been gripped by nearly seven months of anti-government demonstrations – sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill – that have often descended into chaos and violent clashes between protesters and police.
Chief Superintendent Kenneth Kwok Ka-chuen of the force’s public relations branch said last week that police recorded the lowest crime rate in 44 years in 2018, but the violence of rioters had pushed the city’s rule of law to the brink of total collapse.