pickpocketing closeup pickpocket's hand stealing purse from backpacker

Pickpocketing: Statistics Indicate You May Be at Risk and What to Avoid

Pickpocketing crimes have been on the rise in recent years, putting victims and the police tasked with apprehending criminals at heightened risk. The iconic image of suave pickpockets in the movies makes them appear clever, possessing the fine hand skills of a surgeon. But truth be told, these petty thieves usually prey on vulnerable people such as our valued elders and students. And although pickpocketing incidents seemed to decline during the 1990s, the following data indicates the numbers continue to rise.

  • Upwards of 400,000 pickpocketing incidents occur per day.
  • Pickpocketing surged by 20 percent in London between 2010 and 2012.
  • Approximately 3,000 pickpocket incidents are reported each month in New York City.
  • One-third of travel insurance claims are filed for lost or stolen property.
  • Chicago experiences as many as 2,100 pickpocketing thefts in a given month.

The late-20th Century dip in these thefts has been attributed to people transitioning to credit cards and carrying less cash. But expensive electronic devices have inspired criminals to revisit once prevalent techniques. That’s why everyday people are advised to be vigilant about protecting personal property and report these street thieves to police officers who possess the personal protective equipment to make an arrest safely.

How Does it Work with both men and women?

Pickpocketing ranks among the oldest and most widespread ways to steal from community members. It attracts criminals who prefer to avoid physical violence and can abscond valuables before victims realize they’ve been targeted. And such weaponless crimes typically do not garner long incarcerations, should they get caught. These are things potential victims may not know about pickpocketing.

  • Pickpockets often work in teams, with one or more distracting you while another steals.
  • Distractions may include physical bumping, sandwiching, or attracting your attention.
  • Pickpockets consider student backpacks a primary target for electronics, money, valuables, and credit cards.

It’s not uncommon for a pickpocket ring member to brush up against potential victims in search of wallets or other valuables. When a suitable mark is identified, other thieves move into action. Pickpocketing tandems may use what is routinely called a “compassionate” diversion. Someone drops an item while feigning injury, ailment, or handicap. When the good Samaritan bends over to retrieve it, they get robbed. Unlike Hollywood movies, real-life pickpockets are anything but admirable. They rip-off seniors, moms, business people, and students who may be attending college on a shoestring budget.

Where Do Pickpockets Commonly Lurk?

Many of the top tourist destinations in Europe are rife with pickpockets. In the U.S., incidents are more likely to transpire in densely populated cities and areas where people gather. Particularly attractive environments are those places where excitement and distraction make people increasingly vulnerable. These generally include the following.

  • Transportation Hubs: Bus terminals, train stations, and airports accommodate travelers inclined to carry valuables, credit cards, electronics, and cash. Because travelers, friends, and loved ones are often distracted by schedules, TSA processing, and meeting each other, transportation hubs rank among the top places for pickpockets to operate.
  • Restaurants and Pubs: It doesn’t take long for a few alcoholic beverages to loosen people up and dull their senses. Pickpockets are known to patiently observe patrons and discover who has the most cash, and lift their wallet once intoxicated.
  • Shopping Malls: During peak shopping periods, narrow aisles naturally put people in close proximity. Brushing up against someone isn’t necessarily seen as a nefarious act. With attention on products and bargains, pickpockets use that distraction to fleece unsuspecting shoppers.

It’s impractical to never enter a restaurant, pub, train station, or big box retail outlet. At some point, we will all likely cross paths with a pickpocket, whether we realize it or not. That’s why everyday people would be well-served to take precautionary measures.

How To Protect Yourself From Pickpockets

There are two essential things to consider when dealing with potential pickpocketing situations — property and personal protection. These are ways to make your presence unappealing to pickpockets.

  • Firmly hold pocketbooks, backpacks, and other carrying cases.
  • Place cash and valuables deep in front pockets if possible.
  • Do not wear expensive jewelry, watches, or other belongings in crowded spaces.
  • Be alert to people who enter your intimate space of 18 inches or closer.

Although pickpockets usually do not engage in violence, that is not always the case. A criminal who has been arrested multiple times understands a lengthy prison sentence awaits them. It’s not inconceivable the thief may be willing to inflict bodily harm with fists or a weapon if caught in the act. Your health and safety are best protected by not confronting the criminal and giving the police a detailed description.

Contact Haven Gear

Law enforcement officers are advised to wear lightweight riot gear protection when taking pickpockets into custody. Haven Gear produces a complete line of protective wear and accessories designed to keep officers safe when apprehending pickpockets. Contact us to learn more!