A lowlife, drug-addled pickpocket

Bus stop

Thieves find us. “Police, police! She took my wallet!” That’s Bob screaming at ear-splitting volume. Not his usual reaction to pickpocketing! Usually, he turns and simply asks for the wallet back. Or if he has the time, he’ll steal something else from the thief—his phone or sunglasses—and then propose a trade.

We’d noticed this thief, a lowlife drug-addled woman, at a bus stop, as she and her boyfriend lit cigarette butts plucked from the ground. The bus stop was thick with thieves, all more interesting than this desperado; Bob was hoping his wallet would attract one of the others. But the woman wormed her way through the boarding throng, cutting between Bob and me. I had the perfect view of her sloppy steal. So did our film crew.

We’re at the bus stop for “pickup shots” after the rush and excitement of the past few days. We’d found the pickpocket trio Frank, Marc, and Ed so quickly, and things progressed in such a rush, our film director realized that we needed some establishing shots and close-ups on the bus to set the scene for viewers of the documentary.

Director Kun Chang asks Bob to board the next bus, then hop off before it leaves. That’s when the junkie grabs his wallet. Bob makes a scene and the boyfriend shoves the wallet back in. Cute. Usually they just drop it on the ground. Bob gets off the bus and together, we marvel at the number of “suspects” around us. We don’t recognize any individuals from prior visits, but they all fit the pattern.

Today, though, we’re not thiefhunting, tempting as it is. We need those pickup shots, so we let the bus go without us, onboard thieves free to do their thing unwatched. Bob and I are to board the next red bus, because that’s the kind we rode two days ago with Frank, Marc, and Ed.

Here comes one. We board, along with our film crew. It’s empty—I mean, no pickpockets, no suspects. Bob and I stand where we were when Frank & Co. found us, and the cameras get their shots. Until…
The bus stops and doors open and I glance out the window to see faces I recognize. It’s Marc, the younger of the pickpockets we’d met two days ago, and with him Andy, Marc’s uncle-by-marriage and a thief Bob and I have known for years.

We don’t expect them to board. We think they’ll see us and turn away. But no. Along with a third man we don’t recognize, they climb the stairs to work the bus.


Part one of this story. Next installment.

This is Part 13 of THE MAKING OF OUR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARY, PICKPOCKET KING. The film is about us, Bob Arno and Bambi Vincent. We are “thiefhunters in paradise.” The paradise we chose for the story is the warm and wild city of Naples, Italy, home to the world’s best pickpockets. The documentary premieres December 2 at 8pm ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.

Right. There’s no part 12. The original Part 12 is here.
Originally posted 9/25/10 and soon thereafter password-protected at the request of the producer.

© Copyright 2008-2011 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

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