Pick-pocketing is not just in the movies

I have been warned many times about pick-pocketing in Europe. I’ve always imagined that people usually get pick-pocketed in a moment of chaos. I pictured the whole scene: a train stops and travelers rush onto the platform to catch their connection. The intercom is blaring and people are running past, bumping each other. Mothers reach for their child’s  hands as wheeled suitcases squeak against the pavement. In all the pandemonium there is one woman who has her purse open, slung against her shoulder as she searches for her ticket in her bag. She’s being careless in her rush and isn’t paying attention and a hand reaches in and snags her wallet.

This scene  is how I imagine someone being pick-pocketed, but I recently experienced that pick-pocketing can be much more blantant and less dramatic.

My roommate and two friends from the Baylor in Maastricht program went to Scotland and Ireland this last week for Carnival holiday (a sort of European Mardi Gras with parades and costumes). We had a trouble free journey until last night when my roommate realized her wallet was missing. We had just gotten off a train from Waterford, Ireland to Dublin and we were outside the station buying tickets for the tram when she reached in her purse and couldn’t find her wallet inside.

We retraced our steps and even checked the train and it was no where to be found. As we waited to file a report, we begin talking about the train ride. We had noticed two women sitting behind us on the train that looked rather suspicious. They were dressed poorly as if they might have been homeless and they kept staring at us through the gap in the seats. One of the other girls and I had seats that faced them while my roommate and our other companion had seats that back up to the two women. Every time my friend and I  looked up they were looking at us. It was unnerving! When the officer came around to check our tickets, they went to the bathroom and when they came back they kept bending down towards the ground from their seats. But we see strange people all the time, so we didn’t think too much of it and some of us dozed off for awhile.

My roomate told us later after her wallet had been stolen that she had placed her purse on the floor between her legs so she could keep an eye on it. The problem was, the two women could have easily reached under the seats and unzipped it without her realizing it. She had been pick-pocketed right beneath our noses!

The whole experience was very eye-openning. When traveling you must be aware of your surroundings and if you’re in a group, you must stay informed and talk about what you see. Look out for each other. Pick-pocketing doesn’t just happen in moments of complete carelessness and pandemonium. Sometimes,  even if you take procautions like staying awake and keeping your purse between your legs, you may still be in danger. Being robbed is as easy as reaching beneath a seat.

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