Because the transport worries have successfully scared virtually everyone who lives in London away, for the remaining hardy commuters it feels a bit like the bit between Christmas and New Year, when even if you do go into work, the tube and office are half empty and distractions are plentiful. And everywhere else is full of happy sports fans. It’s great! It seems a far cry from all of the horrible stuff that was going on this time last year.
But not if you’re Channel 4, who decided to broadcast Secrets of the Pickpockets just to rain on our parade. Yep, they’re only too quick to remind you that whilst you stare rapt at a big screen showing the Mens’ 200m Final, someone is pilfering your wallet and phone. While you’re traversing a giant escalator and pretending to be an Olympic windsurfer, someone’s taking the opportunity to whip your Kindle out of your bag (not a euphemism).
Yep, according to C4, the influx of tourists into London has played into the hands of the pickpockets.
Pickpockets aren’t easy to spot. If only they all looked like the Artful Dodger – but no, they don’t – the people who do look like the Artful Dodger are Libertines fans, and the pickpockets blend in seamlessly, just like you and me. They prey on people who mark themselves out as tourists, apparently – so if you are a tourist, don’t do anything touristy, like look at a map or ask for directions. Or go to Madame Tussauds.
As the title suggests, the programme weirdly offers quite a few tips to the budding pickpocket, or ‘dipper’, as it’s apparently known in the trade, as it contains footage of pickpockets in action, as well as interviews with both ex and current offenders where they discuss their techniques.
For example, there’s a woman who stands at a crowded bar, and takes the opportunity to wrap the strap of a handbag on the floor around her foot, and then walk out of the pub. You can see how they get away with it – after all, we’d normally assume that a woman walking out of a pub at closing time with her bag wrapped around her ankle was completely normal, wouldn’t we?
Well, maybe not, but its the brazen confidence of these people that both enables and disguises their crimes. They spend ages trailing a victim, and then commit the theft standing so close to them in a crowd that there’s virtually no chance of the victim or anyone else noticing what’s happening. That’s unless they happen to also be followed by the Met’s ‘Operation Spiderweb’ team, who look like normal blokes but can swiftly produce a hidden camera and a pair of handcuffs when required.
Depressing as all of this is, it’s hardly unique to London – the same problems can surely be found in any large city. The solution is clearly for everyone to wear bum bags on their fronts, like people did for a spell in the early nineties.
Even if our sartorial elegance is in tatters, at least we can hang on to our stuff.