Monday, 7 June 2004

You Got to Pick a Pocket or Two...

Something has happened to me. I've become acutely aware of pick pockets and bag snatchers. It follows a couple of times Bails was targeted - once when they got off with her wallet and the other time we discovered her mobile phone under his foot (he claimed it must have fallen out of her pocket, and of course it landed right under his foot - amazing, huh). I have seen numerous attempts at bag pinching or pick pocketing, generally before it gets to the point of the actual theft, so I feel bound to warn the person who is being targeted. I should get a costume - something fitting for a crime fighting vigilante (although those generally seem to be men and have to have some kind of tights-with-pants-on-the-outside - not sure this is a good look for me).

Anyway, perhaps better than this is to share the awareness with the world at large. So here follows my assessment of pickpocket scenarios - watch out there are thieves about (that's my not-very-original-slogan - I'm gonna be on a big poster with my crimefighting costume on).

1. The Bag Slide
You and your mates are sitting round a table in a bar or restaurant or cafe, you put your bag on the floor by your seat, perhaps between your feet, perhaps by the side. Someone comes and sits at a table close to you and uses their foot to drag your bag towards them. They either take the whole bag, or take your purse out of it and slide it back.
Foil this by keeping your bag in your lap or if you have to put it on the floor make sure you squeeze it between your feet.

2. The Bag Snatch
A. Very similar to the above but the person is happening past and just grabs the bag and makes off. I saw this happening in Covent Garden. The target was having a meal at an outside restaurant and there were two thieves operating together (d'you like my crimefighting lingo?). One stood with his coat shielding the other one who was bent over dragging the bag from under the woman's chair. As we passed by I realised they had the bag, and said, without thinking, "PUT THAT BACK" several times rather loudly. They dropped the bag and ran off in different directions (cos I'm really scary y'know). The woman whose bag was almost lifted didn't realise anything had happened at all, and was mightily confused when we handed her bag back.
B. A couple walking along the street hand in hand, its a balmy summer evening, she's hanging on his hooked arm and swinging her bag back and forth with the loose hand. A fellow pedestrian sidles up a little too close (its not a crowded pavement). One more back swing of the bag and he'd rip it out of her hand and be off with it. Apart from the fact that I made the Boyfiend walk up behind him and say, "I know what you're doing" (he really can be scary when he wants to be).
Foil this by being aware of who is around you and not swinging that bag.

3. The Pick Pocket
So I've been studying this on the buses - seems to me that the strip between Harringey West and Wood Green is prime pickpocketing territory (that'll be the 29 or 141). They are crowded at that point I suppose. Men are as much a target as women. Both times I've really seen it there have been a pair operating together. They stand around the back doors getting in the way basically. When it becomes crowded they carefully root around in loose jacket pockets or open handbags. The first pair one was just the getter-in-the-way, and the other one had a folder which he held under one arm and used that hand to go into people's pockets (he didn't get anything while I was watching him). The second pair again one was the getter-in-the-way standing right by the doors so that other passengers had to stand that much closer to his mate who did the pocket dipping. Again he didn't get anything while I was watching.
Foil this by being aware of who's around you. Always keep valuables in a zipped up pocket preferably an inside jacket pocket, or bag. Try to stand away from those who want to stand close to you (tricky on the tube in the morning admittedly).

4. The Overwhelming Tactic
I have been a victim (not successful) of this tactic myself. Often undertaken by unruly children. You are sitting at a table in a pub or cafe, your stuff is spread around the table - reading material, pen, pad, mobile phone. They swarm in (having seen you from outside) - most important aspect of this is the group thing - and crowd around your table asking for money, brandishing some kind of card with a written plea and while you are looking at the card they swipe the mobile off the the table.
Foil this by not leaving your valuables on the table in view, don't get distracted by large groups of swarming children.

The only thing I've never been quite sure of is how to inform the police - they'll be gone before they can get there, sometimes it all happens so fast you don't really realise its happening till its over including you're own reaction.

Take Care of Yourself (and each other). Watch out there are thieves about! (not being very original today as you can see).

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