On the bus this morning, I joined the ranks of thousands of Britons and tourists who have been pickpocketed.
I decided to go into work an hour and a half early as I’m leaving early for an eye test this afternoon. I boarded my normal bus at my normal spot, coffee in hand, and sat in my usual seat. The bus was very quiet at that time in the morning so I put on my iPod, sat my bag in the seat next to me with my arm through one of the straps and drank my coffee. A few stops later, a young man (and I use the term man very loosely here) got on the bus. He started to sit in the seat across the aisle from me but changed his mind and sat behind the seat my bag was in. I suppose he had me pegged from the start. About three stops or so from where I always get off the bus, I thought I felt my bag slipping off the seat so I went to pull it back up. At that point, I noticed the man (wanker) in the seat behind my bag leaning forward with his hand wrist deep in the side pocket of my bag. I immediately whipped the bag away and sat it in my lap and he knew he was caught. He jumped off the bus at the stop we were approaching.
Before I did anything else I checked my bag… my valuables were still in the main pocket along with my keys and phone. Only one thing was missing from my bag and it was from the side pocket the idiot was rummaging through; it wasn’t my bloody Oyster (travel) card which he could have gotten away with easily. That was in the pocket he was going through but he was too stupid to take that. No… he took the little pocket mirror I keep in my side pocket.
The mirror itself has no monetary value—it was one of those freebies you get with certain bath and body products (in this case Caress body wash) but it was given to me when I moved to London over two years ago by my little sister D. I’ve always kept in whatever handbag I’ve carried because it was handy and I liked it and it had sentimental value. I’m sure the dumbass took the mirror because at a glance it resembles a credit card; the same size and shape and roughly the same thickness. I hope he felt like an absolute idiot when he realised what he’d actually gotten. Sadly, he probably dumped on the sidewalk or in a bin.
As soon as I got into the office, I filed a report with the Met Police and the Transport Police. Obviously because no cash or cards or phones were taken, it’s not going to be a high priority case; as a matter of fact I’m sure it’ll go in the bin after the requisite 72 hour period. For me, all I care about is that he’s caught. I want BTP to look at the cctv on the bus (I was right by a camera) and see if he’s someone they recognize as a repeat offender. Next time it could be a little old lady who doesn’t notice anything until hours later. He might stab the next person who notices him trying to steal something. Honestly? After talking to my friend E who used to work for the Met Police, I’m very fortunate I wasn’t hurt. But I’m ten kinds of pissed off—especially that I’ve now become a statistic.
Luckily for me, the would-be-thief didn’t get away with much as I caught him in the act but needless to say I feel as though my privacy and myself have been severely violated. I’m angry and I just feel like I want to punch something. I even plan on going out and buying a new handbag this afternoon simply because the idea of a stranger with their hand in my bag seriously makes my stomach turn.
Below are some facts and figures from British Transport Police’s website about pickpocketing on London’s public transportation system. For more information, visit their website.
Facts about pickpocketing
In 2000, a study of pickpocketing victims revealed that more men are targeted than previously, although women remain at most risk. Men account for 20% of victims, compared to 10% in previous studies, possibly because of an increase in the theft of mobile phones.
· 80% of victims are women
· 43% are London residents
· 30% live outside London
· 27% are foreign visitors
Of the foreign visitors, Americans are the most frequent target, followed by Japanese, Germans, French and Italians.
Friday is the worst day for pickpocketing accounting for almost 19% of thefts. Over 66% take place Wednesday to Saturday. The worst time of day is late afternoon/early evening with 25% of thefts taking place between 5pm and 7pm.
Pickpockets operate all over the central area London where there are crowds. The worst five stations are Victoria, Leicester Square, Oxford Circus, King’s Cross and Piccadilly Circus which account for almost a quarter of all crimes. Fifteen stations account for almost half of all crimes. Over 70% of thefts take place on trains.
Who are pickpockets?
Around half of all victims can give some description of the thief. These descriptions show a three-way split between white Europeans, dark Europeans and Afro-Caribbeans.
Pickpockets’ top five tactics
1. Single “dip” operating under cover of a jacket, newspaper or bag
2. Group surrounding and jostling the target
3. Gang – up to four using someone as a “blocker”, a “pusher” and “dipper”
4. Distraction – often used by South Americans. Spill drink, apologise and steal property
5. Bag slasher – in crowded trains and lifts. Teams of two to four men/women surround target and cut strap of bag or slit the bag itself – not so common
How to beat pickpockets
99% of thefts can be easily prevented by a few simple precautions. If people took more care of their property, crime on the Underground could be cut by half.
· Keep purses secure, carry wallets in an inside pocket
· Zip up hand and shoulder bags
· Carry bags in front of you with flaps against your body
· Keep straps short and bags tucked under your arm
· Don’t display jewellery
· Don’t show your money, keep it safely in your pocket