Under the Tuscan Spell
When we began our tour of the Roman Forum, the guide warned us against pickpockets. “Rome is like any city full of tourists,” she said. “There are people who try to steal from you. Here we have many gypsy pickpockets. They are usually young girls, some with babies, some begging. Be careful. Keep your purses and wallets secure. Don’t be led astray by people dropping things or pushing against you.”
Having been an adventure traveler for over 40 years, I have witnessed many pickpockets at work, though I have never fallen victim myself. One of our writers lost a camera in a train station in Madrid. Two friends lost their money in a Paris subway. I am always alert in a crowd, especially when wealthy unsuspecting tourists are around.
Pickpockets are highly skilled magicians who rely on stealth, distraction, and quick fingers. Most are so good the victim doesn’t realize what happened until it is too late. Pickpockets don’t carry weapons, seldom get caught, and, if arrested, serve little jail time. Most pickpockets work in teams to identify the “mark,” cause a distraction or create a “sandwich,” grab the valuables with the least amount of physical contact possible, and slip away quickly.
As we moved up the walkway into the Forum, I noticed a group of five young girls in jeans, one holding a baby, sitting on a bench, eyeing the crowd of tourists moving by. I stopped Linda and we photographed the thieves in action.