Pick­pocket hunter dreams of world with­out thieves

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

Feng Lim­ing, 37, is a re­tired soldier, but he of­ten dresses like a woman when he is in pub­lic. He al­ways car­ries a wig, a pair of sun­glasses and a blouse with him so he can dis­guise him­self to catch pick­pock­ets.

“To­day’s bad guys have learned some anti-de­tec­tion tech­niques, so I have to be able to trans­form my ap­pear­ance to re­sem­ble a col­lege stu­dent or a fe­male of­fice worker within sec­onds,” Feng said.

He is known and feared by many pick­pock­ets, rob­bers and drug users in Taiyuan, cap­i­tal of Shanxi province.

Feng grad­u­ated from Shanxi’s po­lice vo­ca­tional col­lege in 2009, but failed to pass the civil ser­vant ex­am­i­na­tion three times, pre­vent­ing him from be­com­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer.

He worked other jobs in­stead, but never gave up his part-time pur­suits as an anti-pick­pocket vol­un­teer.

Over the past 19 years, Feng has caught more than 1,200 sus­pects.

“If some­one is break­ing the law, I’m obliged to hunt them down un­til I catch them,” he said.

When Feng was a high school stu­dent, he al­ways wanted a moun­tain bike. His dream even­tu­ally came true, but the bike was stolen just days after he got it. “I wished for a world with­out thieves and felt the urge to do some- thing about it,” he said.

In 1998, Feng joined the mil­i­tary to “be­come strong and learn com­bat skills”. One day in 1999, just after he got off a bus, he heard a cry.

A woman was shout­ing that her bag had just been stolen. She ges­tured to­ward a man rid­ing a bi­cy­cle with a woman’s bag hang­ing from the han­dle­bars. Feng chased after the thief and shoved him to the ground.

Feng learned that the bag con­tained a large sum of cash to cover the woman’s med­i­cal fees as she was se­ri­ously ill.

The ex­pe­ri­ence in­spired Feng to or­ga­nized an an­tipick­pocket team with his friends and col­leagues. Be­fore each mis­sion, he would come up with a plan, de­tail­ing ev­ery­one’s as­signed po­si­tion and du­ties.

His anti-pick­pocket op­er­a­tions can be bro­ken down into three steps: iden­ti­fy­ing, stalk­ing and catch­ing. Years of ex­pe­ri­ence have given Feng and his team­mates the abil­ity to iden­tify sus­pected pick­pock­ets quickly.

In ad­di­tion to catch­ing thieves, he also tries to help those in need, and he once pre­vented a woman from com­mit­ting sui­cide.

Crim­i­nals have left scars all over Feng’s body. A pick­pocket once sliced the blood ves­sels, nerves and ten­don be­tween two fin­gers on one of his hands. He had to un­dergo a mi­nor op­er­a­tion in­volv­ing a dozen stitches.

Feng’s wife dares not walk with him on the street, fear­ing crim­i­nals might rec­og­nize him, and his child does not get much qual­ity time with him. To make up for this, Feng spends all his spare time at home with his fam­ily.

“I was ex­tremely wor­ried about his safety at first. But I learned how good he is at this, and I con­vinced my­self to rest as­sured, as he al­ways comes home on time,” Feng’s wife said.

Early this year, he was asked to as­sist lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cers in han­dling cases, bring­ing him one step closer to be­com­ing a real po­lice­man.

“Catch­ing pick­pock­ets has be­come a life­time habit for me — one I can’t quit and don’t want to give up,” Feng said. “Whether I be­come a po­lice­man or not, I will con­tinue to do it.”

If some­one is break­ing the law, I’m obliged to hunt them down.” Feng Lim­ing, 37, a re­tired soldier who pur­sues pick­pock­ets

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