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Police hire magician to highlight dangers of pickpockets in 'Putpockets' initiative

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Stunned shoppers were caught unawares when they were targeted by a 'pickpocket' who put something IN their open bags or pockets.

The novel exercise was captured on video as a magician hired by Kent Police secretly dropped cards the size of a smartphone in their bags.

In the run-up to Christmas, magician Rob James hit the streets of Dover to pounce on unsuspecting bargain hunters.

A pocket is too much of an invitation for 'pickpocket' magician Rob James
A pocket is too much of an invitation for 'pickpocket' magician Rob James

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He is seen popping the card in pockets and even opening the zip of a closed backpack to leave his safety message.

The crackdown was called Putpockets and was spearheaded by the Dover Partnership Against Crime.

The video follows Rob, who is fitted with a covert video camera. He pounces on the unaware shoppers, before hiding the special card on them.

Video: Police hire magician to highlight danger of pickpockets. Courtesy Dover Partnership Against Crime

These shoppers are then stopped by members of the production team who explain what had happened and filmed their reactions.

On one occasion James distracts a couple by asking directions, on another he slips the card into the pocket of an engineer who was up a ladder - he's even able to put cards the size of iPads into some people's bags.

Rob James said: "It was easier than I thought and we had a greater number of hits than we expected."

Sergeant Carl Lidgley from Dover's Community Policing Team said: "Shoppers who leave their bags open provide a golden opportunity for thieves to help themselves.

"I urge people to be more vigilant by making sure their valuables are somewhere where they can feel them, like an inside breast pocket, if someone does try to steal them.'

Even a ladder can't protect the determined 'thief'
Even a ladder can't protect the determined 'thief'
Pickpockets are targeting shoppers
Pickpockets are targeting shoppers

Karen Griffiths, Co-ordinator of the DPAC, said: "We saw so many people with their bags open and purses, mobile phones and other valuables clearly on show.

"It's really important to make people aware that theft can, and does, happen to anyone."

Many of the shoppers realised that if somebody could put something into their bag, they could just as easily take something out. One woman said "It won't be open again."

The Personal Safety section of the Kent Police website has a downloadable guide which includes tips such as:

  • Keep your bag fastened and at the front of your body
  • Keep valuables out of sight, spread around your person. For example, keep your phone in a bag, your house keys in a pocket and your money in a jacket
  • Never leave your belongings unattended or in easy reach. For example on the top of a pram, a shopping trolley or mobility scooter.

The video was developed by the Dover Partnership Against Crime with grants by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Awards for All lottery fund.

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