When you’re out in a crowd, one of the more normal hazards to watch for is pickpockets. In the press of people, it’s easy for a skilled pickpocket to lift valuables from you without you noticing. They can work by themselves or with an accomplice to distract you. No matter the strategy they use, it pays to be vigilant, especially if you’re going abroad where you’re more vulnerable.
To prevent incidents, arm yourself with the knowledge that can help you identify potential threats, minimize attracting attention, and potentially de-escalate a situation. Here’s a list of tips to help you learn how to protect yourself from pickpockets.
- Refrain from showing off your things
One way to mark yourself as a target is to show off your valuables in public. Pickpockets are typically more likely to steal from you if they believe you’re carrying something worth stealing.
Refrain from using your phone or camera while walking around, especially in unfamiliar territory. Leave non-essentials, like jewelry and extra money, behind to avoid losing them. Even if your things aren’t that valuable, pickpockets may see you as a mark anyway. Some thieves can be more daring still and may just take your jewelry (including piercings) and run. Stay alert.
- Invest in pick-pocket proof supplies
One other way you can protect your belongings is by picking the right clothes. Many companies now offer pickpocket-proof clothes, to help you take better care of your things. Look into pants, jackets, and bags with buttons and zippers over the pockets that can offer an additional layer of protection against would-be thieves.
Another thing you can try is getting yourself some hidden pockets and pouches to store valuables away from prying eyes. Money belts are a good example; you can hide them under your shirt where it’s hard for thieves to find but easy for you to monitor. Slash-resistant bags are another useful item you may want to invest in. Pickpocket-proofing your bag or purse crooks some unexpected difficulty, giving you more time to call for help.
- Keep your wits about you in a crowd
Most pickpockets tend to operate within crowds, and for good reason. People are usually distracted and in a hurry when in a crowd and are used to some degree of jostling from the press. Crowds offer plenty of cover and a good getaway without raising a ruckus.
Train stations, public transport, markets, and public events are common hunting grounds for pickpockets. Take extra care when attending large events or even on your normal daily commute. Make a habit of keeping your hands in your pockets to make valuables less accessible. For women, keep your purse in front of you so you can keep your eyes on it. With the right travelling properly handled, you can keep your belongings safe.
Finally, be aware of your surroundings. Pickpockets can generally spot those staying vigilant versus those who look more vulnerable. Keep an extra eye out for local security guards to know who you can call for help if need be.
- Portion your money
As an addition to wearing more protective clothes, another thing you can do is store your money and valuables in multiple safe spots. In case the worst happens and a pickpocket manages to steal something, at least you’ve partitioned your valuables so you haven’t lost everything.
Place your items and cash between your pockets, hidden pouches, and bags to give yourself a safety net. A good rule of thumb is to keep the money you actually expect to use for the day in your wallet, where you can access it easily. The rest (like extra cash and credit cards) you can keep in your money belt.
- Avoid putting things in your back pocket
The idea that pickpockets can lift valuables out of your back pocket has some truth to it. Many pickpockets tend to come from behind, out of your line of sight. Skilled ones are light-fingered enough to snatch your wallet without your notice, more so if you have big pockets.
In a crowd, it may also be difficult to notice your phone or wallet being pulled out if you’re already shoulder-to-shoulder with other people. Instead, keep your valuables in harder-to-reach areas, like the front pocket of your pants or the inner pocket of your jacket. For added security, make sure the inner pocket has a button or zipper so it can close and prevent unwanted hands from sneaking inside. When it comes to putting your wallet in the front pocket, ideally you should get a thinner wallet. Not only is it a more comfortable fit, but it keeps a low profile and doesn’t draw any attention.
- Minimize your valuables
Keep in mind, a modest traveller is a safe traveller. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t travel with valuables, like your laptop or tablet. You can’t get these items stolen if you don’t take them with you.
Before heading out, make a checklist of what you absolutely need for the day. Do not take any non-essentials. Not only does this minimize the chances of those items being stolen, they also help you travel light.
- Ditch the backpacks
Backpacks are especially at risk of robbery. It’s easy for a thief to lift things out of the bag without you feeling it. One other vulnerability is that it’s out of sight, making it easier to steal from without attracting your attention. Ideally, you should leave the backpack at home to protect your valuables, especially if it has plenty of front pockets. If you do need to carry a backpack, take all the precautions to secure them. Put locks on your zippers to prevent them from being unzipped, and avoid putting items of great value inside. When in a crowd, switch your backpack to the front to keep it in sight at all times.
Alternatively, you can purchase anti-theft backpacks that are specifically designed to keep prying hands off your belongings.
- Anchor your bag
Whenever you’re staying in one place, your bags could be a target for thieves, so take steps to secure your bag until you leave. One great way to protect them is to anchor them to something secure nearby. For example, you could loop a strap over a chair leg, keep the bag on your lap, or position the bag between yourself and a companion.
In case a snatcher tries to steal the bag, they’re more likely to get stuck, forcing them to either drop the bag or get caught. Anchoring your bag is a simple move, but it’s a good way to help you travel safely with your bags in tow. Investing in safe-travel bags isn’t the only thing you can do to protect yourself; the right bag-handling strategy will allow you to hold on to your items more securely.
Whether you’re on your daily commute or enjoying downtime as a tourist, vigilance and security are of utmost importance. One means to protect against pickpockets and other would-be criminals is to know exactly who to turn to in a pinch.
At The Centre for Security Training & Management, we pride ourselves on producing trustworthy and well-trained security specialists to help keep both public and private establishments safe. Give us a call now at (416) 750-4747 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for answers to your queries.