The New York Times did a piece on tales of pickpocketers. It told the story of Wilfred Rose, a notorious pickpocketer, and some of the methods he used to steal money in New York City. Wilfred would pull wallets out by using both his middle finger and his forefinger to create homemade pliers.
The story mentions how most pickpocketing has gone high-tech now involving hacking and credit card skimming and that a lot of people aren’t carrying around cash.
I’ve had two experiences with pickpocketing. The first was on a Moscow subway.
I was rushing to catch a subway and as the doors closed I was reaching out to grab a hold of the harness on the roof. As I was doing this, the person I was traveling with yelled out, “your wallet!”. Right then, I put my right hand on my back pocket and my wallet was halfway out of my pants. I immediately moved to the other side and looked back at four men leaning up against the door. The person I was with yelled some things at them in Russian and they just sneered back. I had always played this scenario out in my mind that I would rush my assailants, arms flailing, creating quite the ruckus and defending my space. However, I figured that four on one on a Moscow subway was probably not going to be in my favor and I didn’t do anything.
The second time happened on a bus in Rome. My wife and I were on our way to one of the sites and I saw two men, facing me, standing right by a woman. One of them was reaching their hand into the woman’s purse attempting to extract money. The woman was completely oblivious to what was going on as she was engrossed in a conversation with her friend. The right thing to do in this moment would have been to yell out “Hey stop that” or “What’s going on?” or in some way alert the woman. Instead I was frozen with fear thinking that perhaps these two Italian pickpocketers would have weapons of some sort on them and it would have been bad news for me. So I sat there like an idiot and they both jumped off the bus at the next stop. I’m not sure if they actually succeeded in stealing any money or not.
Looking back, I wish I would have said something to stop it or done something rather than just sitting there.
Due to this experience of pickpocketing, I always keep my passport on my person when traveling on a plane so that someone can’t nick it out of my carry on. Secondly, I take only some of my credit cards and cash with me in public and keep it anywhere but my back pocket.
Have you had any experiences with pickpocketing and were you braver than I?