An alert American man caught a pickpocket with his hand stuck in his girlfriend’s backpack as they walked along Avenida Constitución around noon on August 12.
Jubilant Mexicans filled the area and celebrated El Tri’s Olympic victory in the streets. The would-be victim’s friend, an americano and a veteran of the often pickpocket-packed Centro district of Tijuana, had warned his gal pal of the potential danger, and even pointed out suspicious individuals lurking around her who appeared to be setting up an opportunity to go pickin'.
In this case, the pickpocket was apparently working in tandem with a couple of others who would create distractions, i.e., bumping into the would-be victim, dropping something while in front of the would-be victim, etc. While the distraction was occurring, into the backpack of the woman slipped the hand of the thief, probing for something of value.
Just as quickly, however, the thief’s wrist was ensnared by the grip of the alert tourist, who, much to the astonishment of the thief, began lambasting him in fluent Spanish, saying, “Give it back…”
The pickpocket pincher, a longtime TJ resident, when interviewed later, said he was ready to slug the thief, but the picker had such a terrified look on his face at being caught and addressed in Spanish, that he relented. The thief had also said (in Spanish), “Nothing is missing from your girl’s pack.”
After a few tense moments, while passersby stopped to observe the raucous daylight confrontation in the middle of the crowded sidewalk, the thief slipped the grip of the crimebuster and tried to disappear into the milling crowd.
As the pickpocket ran into the street, dodging traffic, some in the crowd (mainly women who were out shopping) yelled at the thief, attracting the attention of Tijuana police. The three beat cops cornered and subdued the pickpocket and brought him back to the scene of his crime.
After a brief interview with the victims, in which the American told the cops, “Look, I know how things work down here, and he’ll be out in a while, but at least keep him off the street and out of business for a few hours.” The handcuffed pickpocket was hauled off to the substation for arraignment, to the nodding assent of the gathered witnesses.
Tourist tip: Keep your backpack slung at your side, rather than packed on your back. I have been a victim of these rateros,, but not since I started carrying my wallet in my front pocket ten years ago.