Sometime this year, I caught on National Geography channel a video on pick pocketing in Naples, Italy. American Bob Arno, a pickpocket himself immersed himself in the pickpocket capital of the world to witness the techniques of professional pickpockets. Pros operate as a group (in twos or threes) and are well coordinated. They use diversionary and distracting techniques. Person assigned to pick the bag or picket is skillful.
From a video I suddenly was a witness to a band of pickpockets operating. Live from Rizal Avenue while seated on a bench facing the sidewalk, I saw how they victimized the unaware Filipino. Like the band in Naples, they operate as a group. They prey on their potential victim from a vantage point. Upon spotting an easy and a loaded target, action begins.
Detailed is my account.
There is a band of pickpockets operating at the strip between Soler and Katubusan streets (before Gonzalo Puyat st.) along Rizal Avenue. This is between National Bookstore and Save More Supermarket. Numbering about 20, they come in all ages, sexes and forms. The men are typical of the profile you spot in Recto dressed in shirts and shorts. A number of women are toothless, some fully made up. Youngest must be about in early twenties and the eldest in their forties. From about 11AM to 1PM in broad daylight, I witnessed them pick the backpacks of more than 20 passerbys. Seated at the steps just below Padi’s Point spotting from National Bookstore at the North to Save More Supermarket at the South, they pry on their prospects and quickly mount their operations. They target only those with backpacks slung at their back with protruding zippers and with handbags loosely hanging. It did not matter if one was walking solo, with someone or a group, a student, a middle aged foreigner, a shopper or an elderly. The more inattentive with a bag at the back, the better a prospect they are. Once candidates are spotted, action begins. Sometimes, only 1 would go at times 2 and even 3 depending on what they see. It is team work seamlessly done. Some come from the stairs; others suddenly show up from the side street or another corner. Done quickly, it starts with spotting their victim, walking with him or her, groping the bag with their hands for the object, opening the zipper, picking the item and pocketing it or relaying it to the next pickpocket walking with them. In seconds, it is done.
Most of the time, they are successful. But there were a handful (about 3) who noticed just at the nick of time looked behind. Fortunately, both parties casually walked away. Those who were aware they were being robbed did not confront the pickpocket.
Be conscious and vigilant. Some tips:
- Men should keep their wallet in tightest pocket. Better if placed in a corded pouch and tucked under the pants. Carry your bags in front and tightly hold on to them. Bags slung from the back are easy targets as you will not notice a groping hand especially if you are in motion.
- Do not expose phones, wallets, expensive jewelry.
- Be suspicious of persons who tail you. Divert immediately.
- When you catch them stealing, it is best not to confront. Just walk away. A band operating has backers and protection.
- Walk briskly.
Young lovers walking hand in hand are easy preys as they are unmindful of their surroundings while leisurely strolling.
Ingat lang palagi.
Before travelling, view this video. http://www.documentarytube.com/videos/pickpocket-king-bob-arno