Beware Pickpockets. Be Aware but not Paranoid.

Pickpockets can be found everywhere

Pickpockets Travel Tips.

Having served with the Criminal Investigation Department in the Metropolitan Police in London and, doing my stint on a Q car.  I had a good background on traveling pickpockets, so feel qualified to add this tip to my blog. 

Having also spent many years as a Security Consultant, giving advice to executives concerning their travel plans. The steps they should take to avoid trouble while traveling and in fact, any places where they felt a bit insecure.

The best advice I can give is, “Don’t be paranoid. Just be aware.” In other words, be aware of what is happening around you, take note of your surroundings and the people around you. Enjoy your life and your travels but keep your wits about you. Don’t be the “Easy Mark” that thieves are looking for.   If they can see that you are not going to be an “Easy Mark”, there is always someone who will.

Most Tourist Centres and Major cities attract Pickpockets

Most major cities throughout the world have their share of pickpockets. Some much better than others and, if they haven’t got their own home grown ones. There are plenty of good pickpockets only too willing to come to town for the easy pickings, and to escape the pressures of home.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. Pickpockets come in all shapes and sizes. All ages and sexes. All nationalities and colours. That usually means that you will be unable to know if the person standing next to you is sizing you up to see if you are a good “Mark”, and prospective donor to their retirement fund.

At this time we are talking only of pickpockets but, there can be other more clumsy ways, and usually violent ways, to get you to part with your purse, bag or wallet. I’ll deal with those in later articles.

Pickpockets work as a team, in most cases.

Pickpockets usually work as a team, in crowded places. But not always. I was once responsible, with other police officers, of arresting a hard working professional pickpocket team in London, at a busy bus stop. At the head of the queue was the Blocker. He, because of his size in this case, got onto the platform first.   Under the pretext of asking directions and by moving around, he blocked the entry of the remaining queue who were all pushing and shoving to get on the bus.  With help from the rest of the team. The Blocker can be an elderly, apparently confused old woman or old man. Usually with a large basket or case that impedes the movement of the crowd behind them. I am sure that you get the idea.

The Dip, the one who actually has the skill to remove the article they already have their eye on, is immediately behind the crush of people trying to get past the Blocker. They have already selected their Mark and, there could be two or three of these Marks on the bus and also several Dips.

Behind them, are The Passers. Once a Dip has removed an object, it is immediately handed on to one of The Passers who leaves the immediate area as soon as possible with the item. In fact it could, and with a really professional group, be passed on several times so, that no matter if someone is suspected or caught. There is never any evidence on them. It’s long gone.

Usually the item is taken somewhere close, maybe a car, and money, credit cards, house keys and anything else of value taken out.  Then the item, the wallet, purse or bag, dropped into a rubbish bin or thrown away where it won’t be found for a while.

Pickpockets are everywhere.

My wife and I travel a lot and have always done so. We are usually Travelers and not Tourists.  There is a difference.  I always have a Bum Bag, the Americans call them Fanny Packs.   It fits on my belt as a separate item and has either three zips horizontal across the front. One for the Passports, one for local money and one for other monies.   I have another with two zips across the front and another zipped pocket, for my major money, at the back.   My shirt is always worn outside my trousers and over my belt, effectively concealing the pack and even if they did get their hand there, which zipped pocket is the money in?  I also usually wear a travel jacket, like a fisherman’s or photographer’s jacket with a number of pockets. I can also slide the pack around my body so that it is in different places and with the numerous pockets on show. It can be confusing to a prospective pickpocket. I am no longer An Easy Mark.

Everyone is a target to a pickpocket.

Until you show the pickpockets sizing you up, that you are not an Easy Mark.

In The Ramplas, in Barcelona, Spain last year, my wife was wearing TWO jackets and other clothing as it was mid winter. She had a wallet in the inside pocket of the inside coat and they were both buttoned up. She still lost her wallet to a very good pickpocket and never knew it had been taken. She knew of my concerns but, in the excitement of the moment in the crowd, was momentarily unaware and it cost her.

I had two attempts to pick my pockets on the Barcelona underground. Crowded area again and, in another incident, a hand brushed across my backside where a man would usually keep a wallet. I am not that pretty that it could have been anything else. When he saw I had noticed, he apologised profusely and disappeared into the crowd. There may well have been other attempts that I was unaware of, but I did not lose anything.

In Spain you are always being warned against pickpockets. The Ramplas, in the central shopping district, is an ideal spot for them with all the naive and rubber necking tourists around.

Be EXTRA wary in circumstances like this anywhere in the world. Crowds and bustle. In Italy we were warned about the groups of gypsies in the markets. Particularly if one was carrying a baby. That baby could be thrust at you in such a way that you had to hang on to it. In the meantime there would be a crowd of noisy, vocal gypsies, male, female and children learning the trade, all round you. Pushing each other and you and, going through your pockets in the process.

There are many other ways to steal from you.

Pockets can not only be picked. They can be sliced open and the contents removed. Particularly back pockets on men’s trousers.

A lady on our cruise had her handbag over her shoulder in The Ramplas in Barcelona. Only to find when she got back to the ship that the entire bottom had been sliced right open. Only the fact that it was a good bag with a sturdy lining, prevented all the contents coming out.

As I have said, Don’t be paranoid. Just be aware. Don’t be the rubbernecking tourist who is an easy mark. Know what is happening around you and enjoy your traveling anywhere in the world.

Please look for other articles and Travel Tips in my other blog, http://www.holidayrentalsandtraveltips.com.

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