Defeating Pick Pockets
Thai’s in general, have a kindly disposition. But a city built on the back of tourist dollars Pattaya, just seems to attract more than its fair share of less that law abiding Thais. This fact makes petty theft in the form of purse and jewelry snatching and pick-pocketing uncommonly common in our neck of the woods. Hardly a week goes by without the local news airing a report about foreigners who’ve been fleeced by Siamese scoundrels whilst perambulating the city’s footpaths or plying its avenues in a baht bus. I’m well aware that Pattaya isn’t the setting of a Dickens’s novel, but it really does have an abundance of Asian ‘Artful Dodgers’. I know; as I’ve been the victim of Thai pickpockets of a dubious gender on Beach Road … twice! Okay, some alcohol was involved, but not excessively so. But I digress.
The pretexts used by today’s Thai pickpockets differ very little from those employed in the days of Dickens. They still rely on skill, cunning, distraction, physical contact, and speed. Based on my own … ahem, personal experience and those viewed on the local news bulletins, the two most common pick-pocketing scams in our fair city take place on crowded thoroughfares and on the city’s ever present baht buses.
Beach Road Bumping
By far the most common pick-pocketing scam in Pattaya is what the pros refer to as ‘bumping’. This technique works best in a crowded or busy location such as, but not limited to Pattaya Beach Road. Generally a stranger or two (one doing the bumping and the other doing the stealing) will ‘bump’ or otherwise unexpectedly come into contact with your person. The theft is cleverly disguised as an accident or some other form of commotion such as a prostitute or ladyboy showcasing the services on offer by caressing err, touching ah, I mean accosting, okay, it’s probably best described as molestation by prying hands! Generally the victim (me on two occasions) was so relieved to escape the unwanted and unsolicited attention that a mobile phone, wallet or in my case, a few hundred baht from my shirt pocket went missing. The best way to avoid this type of confrontation is to:
Be alert in crowded spaces
Never let anyone invade your personal space
Steer clear of commotions as they are often a smokescreen for theft
Go on instant alert when approached by a stranger
Be wary of anyone coming your way bearing maps or clipboards as these items can be used to distract your attention and hide their hands
Avoid dimly lit areas and locations where prostitutes and ladyboys are known to congregate
Don’t wander the sois in a state of inebriation as there’s a good chance you’ll be noticed by predators or other unsavory characters
And most importantly, never let a stranger, whether it’s a beggar, drunk, prostitute or ladyboy come closer than arm’s length. If you value your valuables don’t be afraid to be rude, they certainly aren’t. It’s true, more people become the unwitting victims of crime because they are more afraid of being considered rude than getting robbed. Forget about what they or others think, push pushy strangers away if necessary, protect your cash with your hand, and keep on walking.
Baht Bus Bumping
In Pattaya the baht bus is the second most likely location where a tourist or expat can expect to be unexpectedly separated from his or her valuables by a team of pickpockets. I say “team”, because pick-pocketeers always operate in tandem and frequently in triplicate on the baht bus. Sometimes the offenders will position themselves in such a manner so that the one ahead can create a delay when boarding the bus. This of course, will force you to stop abruptly. Meanwhile, the second perpetrator behind you, can’t help but collide into you as if it’s your fault whilst removing your wallet.
Another common ploy is that a passenger, often a female burdened by an infant, will sit unusually close to you. A second commuter will then occupy the other open seat adjacent to your person. Once you’ve been bookended, at some point during the journey, the infant bearer will attempt to distract you by jostling about and fussing with the toddler. While your attention is occupied by the pre-planned commotion, her partner in crime will stealthily filch your wallet or cash from your pocket. Often the ill gotten gains are discreetly handed off to a third member of the gang who instantly rings the bell and debarks from the bus. This ensures that no incriminating evidence remains in possession of the pair of perpetrators should you prematurely discover that your money’s missing when you can’t pay the fare. If your most earnest desire is to avoid a baht bus calamity such as those described above:
Always occupy a corner seat which will leave you vulnerable from only one side
Check to see that you are still in possession of your valuables when you sit down, and before you stand up to exit the bus
Guard your belongings whenever another passenger invades your personal space or creates an unusual amount of seemingly innocuous hubbub
Move to another seat if you are suddenly surrounded on a less than crowded bus
Remember that what happens to you in Pattaya should be the result of choice, not chance. Nobody goes out looking for trouble, but sometimes it just has a way of finding you. Therefore, before you go out, always do what you can to minimize your loss in case of theft:
Dress inconspicuously so that you don’t attract attention of the wrong type
Take only what you need and don’t flash big wads of cash or wear too much bling
Avoid placing valuables in pockets that are outside your field of vision, i.e. rear and thigh pockets
Deep front pockets offer far better protection
Attach your wallet to a chain or ditch the billfold entirely. The only items of importance I carry in my billfold are a copy of my visa and passport. My folding money is always safely tucked away inside a front trouser pocket.
If You’ve Been Victimized
Whether you’re walking or riding, as soon as you suspect thing’s are amiss, do something unexpected like suddenly standing up, reversing your direction, speeding up or slowing down your pace. This will throw the pickpockets off their game. If you catch a pickpocket in the act, shout out the Thai word “kà-moi”, which means “to steal”. Doing so will likely force the thief to panic and flee the scene of the crime empty handed. If all else fails, don’t struggle with the pickpocketeer as many are armed with knives. If you find that you’ve been fleeced, and are still in possession of your mobile snap a photo of the fleeing felon and contact the police immediately.