Theft on Planes
All this hearsay, lately, about pickpockets and theft on planes. Even a celebrity-son helped himself to sleeping passengers’ valuables.
Pickpockets are everywhere, and that includes airports, airplanes, and especially luggage carousels. Only you are responsible for the security of your stuff. Here’s what a thief told me, in pickpocket-lingo:
The Stick, the Shade, and the Wire
“JD” an American whiz player, travels to all the top sporting events in the United States. His favorite tool is a garment bag which he calls his shade, a prop to hide his theft of a sting, or a wallet. Dressed in a suit from the wardrobe he’s proud of, he flies to his destination penniless. He described his recent trip to Las Vegas.
“I made $900 coming out of the airport. When the plane lands, I start work. I got to get my money to get out of McCarran airport. Play strictly on skill, that’s how I play—on the plane. Yeah, plane lands, people have their arms up getting their bags. See my man, get up on him, pow, I spank him, off the front leg.
“It was a pappy—a man—right? He got a sting—a wallet—in the front slide, but he also got cash. I played this for his credit card. I got a guy with me we call a writer. He writes the work, writes the spreads. He’s a stick—what you call a stall, what we call a stickman writer. He’s stick and shade. I do the wire. The wire is the one who takes. We split up when we get on the plane, he gets in the back and I get in the front.
“Right now, I can go to McCarran airport and go to baggage claim and beat some stings. Because security is, evidently, lax, and the people are rushing to get their bags, and the bags are coming off the trolley, and I got my garment bag ….
“And when he’s stooping down to get his luggage— …˜Oh, is that mine, sir?’ Shake him up. …˜Oh, is this mine? It looks like mine.’ If you’re moving, and I got someone with me, and you’re in the airport, I’m going to play you. If I feel like I can work you I’m going to play you.
Excerpt from Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams
Chapter Three: Getting There—With all your Marbles
“Kayla,” a 15-year-old girl, told me how her wallet was stolen on a cross-country flight. Her mother and sister supported Kayla’s story. The thief was a 35ish woman sitting next to her. In the middle of the flight, the woman bent down and pretended to be digging in her purse. But Kayla felt something and looked, and could see that the woman was digging in her (Kayla’s) purse.
Kayla said she was too scared to say anything. The woman got up and went to the bathroom. Kayla checked her purse and found that her wallet was gone. She told her mother. Then she and her mother told a flight attendant. The flight attendant found the wallet in the bathroom, missing only Kayla’s cash. Kayla was still too afraid to say anything to the thief. When the plane landed, the woman just left.
Is theft on planes a risk worth worrying about? I don’t think so. Then again, if you’re the unlucky victim of a flying filcher, you’ll be plenty pissed. If you sleep, that tiny possibility is there. Even if you don’t sleep, do you know what’s being rummaged above your head? On some planes, a thief could reach behind his feet to access the bag under his seat.
What to do? Just make it more difficult for the casual thief. Bury your valuables within your bags. Use little locks on your carry-ons. Put your bags in the bin zipper down, or with the opening to the back of the bin. (Yeah, I know, wheels in first, they say.) Use the bin across from you, so you have a chance of looking if someone opens it.
Do I do all those things? Can you completely prevent theft on planes? Nope. But you can make your stuff much more difficult to access than the next person’s.
If you’re a heavy sleeper, or like to close your eyes and disappear under earphones, as I do, there’s not much you can do short of sitting on your stuff. Still, I’d be more concerned at a sporting event or concert, than aboard an airplane. JD makes a great living stealing wallets from people in crowds. And he’s still out there.