A new type of "piranha," armed with scissors and with a hunger for hair has appeared in Venezuela and is going after the locks of local women with the aim of selling them for up to 3,000 bolivars ($476).

Amid the unease that the situation has sparked in the western city of Maracaibo, municipal police chief Alejandro Querales announced the launching of a "special operation" to capture the criminals.

Meanwhile, an editorial published Monday in El Nacional, one of Venezuela's leading dailies, emphasized that being the victim of this kind of crime is "an essentially humiliating experience."

"Besides the humiliating procedure that the victim experiences, (the cutting of the hair) is an act that harms the (victim's) physical integrity," he said.

The beauty culture in Venezuela, which is the homeland of several Miss Universe winners and where cosmetic surgery is the order of the day, has resulted in "violence" against the body that has facilitated the rise of these kind of criminal groups," the newspaper said.

Victims' accounts indicate the thieves' modus operandi is to select their target, corner her, overpower or subdue her and then quickly cut off her hair with scissors.

"I was in one of the corridors (of the mall) when I felt someone behind me touch my hair. A businessman started to gesture at me, but I didn't understand him and then the boy pulled me and embraced me because the 'piranha' was coming with the scissors," Francis Medina told Panorama newspaper.

The comments of the victims indicate that the attackers then sell the hair to hairdressers who use it to make wigs and extensions.

Posts on Twitter say that this new type of crime has also appeared in Caracas, where at least four women have been attacked. EFE