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Confessions of a Moscow Pickpocket
November 21, 2007 15:43

Veterans of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Office say that in the Soviet times they daily caught at least 100 pickpockets at GUM Department Store in Moscow – the only store of the country with a goods flow. Nowadays the Russian capital still teems with thieves. A 47-year-old professional pickpocket Pavel Kroshkin (surname changed) enjoys freedom for the last 8 years although he has been caught several times during this period.

According to Pavel, pickpocket qualification grows with years while the sense of touch falls. He has been taken in the mainour several times but managed to escape being punished by the justice. As Pavel explains, every pickpocket has a number of fake excuses in case they are caught; the main thing is to take a quick view at the situation and the people holding the thief. Pavel`s favourite “star turn” is cry. “If I see it is impossible to run away, I give in. I stand pretending that I can’t believe I’ve been caught. This makes the victim think that I do not look like a real thief and that it could be some hardships of life that made me do that. Crying works miracles: supposedly true thefts do not cry – and the puzzled victim just lets me go”, Pavel says.

GUM Store is no longer a “work spot” for Pavel: expensive boutiques with watching cameras and security, spacious halls and absence of queues leave small chances to thieves. The safest place for pickpockets, according to Pavel, is ground transport, especially in morning hours. Why? “Imagine you are going to work by a trolleybus and feel that someone’s hand gets in your bag. You catch it, and what’s next? Bring the thief to the police? But you will hardly manage to do it on your own but the passengers will unlikely help you as they all are in a hurry”, Pavel explains. “The driver doesn’t care about your problems at all. You get puzzled for you do not catch thieves every day while pickpockets have a thought-out scheme of behaviour in such cases”.

Pavel notices that there are quite a lot of pickpockets in transport who “work” in groups of 4-5 people. Some of them lack skills for picking purses from pockets and cut bags instead. Usually one of them is cutting a bag while the others are making hustle to cover the mate.

How to get to know that there are pickpockets in transport? First of all, according to Pavel, it is made-up hustle. An empty-handed person floating in the crowd must also cause suspicions. It is not hard for a professional to fish the purse out of a bag. There is a great number of ways to do it quietly.

Many women are mistaken in thinking that if they put the purse to the bag bottom and lay it over with the other things in the bag pickpockets will be unable to get it. The purse is impossible to steal only in one case – if the owner holds it in hands. If a pickpocket finds that the purse or wallet he has just stolen is full of documents instead of money, he throws the purse on the floor to the victim’s feet insensibly and the pickpocket’s mate picks at the purse saying to the victim: “Isn’t it your purse?”

Pavel also marks that nowadays there are some female pickpockets who normally “work” alone and rely on their physical attractiveness rather than the twist of the wrist. They usually squeeze up against some guy with their hips or breasts and the guy does not move fearing to frighten away such “unexpected pleasure” while the woman picks his wallet. However, Pavel does not like his female “colleagues” working alone considering them greedy, which is unacceptable for a true pickpocket.


Translated by Lavrentyeva Natalya

Tags: safety     

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