I’ve been warned.
I’ve been leery.
I’ve read stories about them and have even been charmed by the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist and even more so by Bo, Prosper and Scipio in The Thief Lord.
I’ve had a few close calls – people coming too quickly at me from a strange angle, someone else’s fingers headed towards my husband’s pocket, someone pressing uncomfortably against me in a crowd. But in those instances, I swerved, I ran up to my husband, hugging him and I abruptly turned away, avoiding potential crimes. Today, I witnessed a pick pocket in action.
My family was on maybe our sixty-fourth metro ride since we’ve been in Barcelona this summer. My husband gave me the look and shoved his hands deep in his pockets – our sign to each other to be extra wary of pick pockets, or as our seven-year old calls them, pocket-pickers.
On the subway the group cloistered around a set of the poles people hold onto for balance seemed overly pushy, like they were separating our family. A young lady, quite attractive, headed to another car, and then came back, preening, almost posing for the crowd. I grabbed our two youngest children and plopped into an available seat. Moments later yelling, scuffling, slapping, grabbing.
This group of four twenty-somethingers seemed to be traveling separate, but they weren’t, and they had a system. The girls were distractions and immobilizers. One guy was the living deposit box in the corner. The other guy was the actual pick pocket. He snatched a traveler’s wallet. A random woman on the subway witnessed it, slapped the thief’s hand, the wallet went flying and the skirmish began (an odd foreign coin I couldn’t identify hit me on the eyebrow. I returned it to the victim). In the end the man got back his wallet, but the band of pick pockets got away.
So, if you’re backpacking, touring, traveling and/or vacationing in Europe this summer. Be smart. Be careful.
· Wear a money belt, tucked into your pants or skirt, so that a pick pocket cannot access your stuff. It seems a little weird at first, but I promise it won’t show, unless you’re wearing jeggings. And, you get used to it.
· Do not carry your passport, just a copy of it (keep the original in your apartment or safe at your hotel).
· Do not carry more than 50 Euro at any time, better to lose a little than a lot.
· Wear your backpack as a front pack. Again, not a super fashion statement, but you’ll be glad you have all your stuff at the end of the day.
· Keep your own hands in your pockets, so no one else’s can find their way in.
· AND MOST IMPORTANTLY - be aware of your surroundings – any distraction, fight, performance, drama can be used to divert your attention away from your things.
Enjoy your travels by taking precautions, so you can enjoy the amazing sights, flavors and spectacles around the world.
Laura L. Smith