What Is Pickpocketing?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Pickpocketing is the method of stealing things from people’s pockets without them knowing. This is often handled through very carefully-created techniques that might be very difficult to properly execute. This was once a very common crime, especially in crowded areas of heavily-populated cities, but over time, it has declined to some extent. Pickpockets usually receive less aggressive punishments than many other thieves because they don’t rely on violence.

The primary methods used in pickpocketing are based on distracting people so that they don’t notice their pockets are being invaded. For example, if two people bump into each other, it can be very difficult to determine exactly what was going on during the moment of greatest contact. The person simply feels another person’s body pressing against him, and he doesn’t realize that the other individual was also reaching into his pocket at the time. Sometimes the pickpocket might even make strong eye contact during the incident or say something to distract the person more thoroughly.

Sometimes people do most of their pickpocketing alone, but in many cases, it is handled by a coordinated group. One person will do the actual stealing while others help surround the victim or aid in the distraction. For example, someone might approach a person and get his attention by asking him a question, during which time the pickpocketing expert will brush up against him and take his wallet. In many ways, these tactics are very similar to the sort of sleight of hand often seen during stage magic performances since they work on the same principles of human psychology.

Many experts suggest that pickpocketing is declining in many countries. There have been many reasons for this, one of which is the increase in the use of credit cards, which are often difficult for pickpockets to take advantage of. Another reason for the decline in pickpocketing is the difficulty involved in the practice, which can take years to perfect, in combination with an increase in easier crimes that may be more profitable for some people.

Some people consider pickpocketing an art form despite its criminal uses. They may even see it as an important piece of cultural history. Some people have even tried to keep the skills alive for peaceful uses in magic shows and other arenas so that they aren’t completely lost. Others have a sense of nostalgia for pickpocketing because the theft usually doesn’t involve violence or guns, which can sometimes make it seem slightly less offensive in a cultural sense than more violent crimes that may have become more common.

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What punishments do they get if caught?

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      Woman holding a book