by Ben Curtis
Pickpocketing and theft are a problem in Madrid but it is not something to worry about if you take a few sensible precautions. Obvious things to AVOID are carrying your wallet in your back pocket, or valuables in a back pack on your back – both are asking for trouble. Handbags should be carried under your arm. Be very careful not to leave bags next to you on the floor in bars or restaurants – keep them on your lap. Pickpockets and bag snatchers tend to work in pairs or small groups in Madrid and often one or two members of a gang will distract you (by shoving you, asking an innocent question, showing you a map) while another robs you – be particularly aware in the Metro and around major tourist attractions such as museums. Again, there is no need to be paranoid all the time, but if you are aware of this problem then you are bound to be fine.
What follows in an excellent example of the tricks used in Madrid these days, from Julian, who was on holiday in Madrid with his wife Judith, and was targeted the Rastro market.
So having walked round the Rastro & flea market, Judith & I had bought a few items & were heading out when I got targeted as the victim of a ‘contrived accident’. I knew all about this possibility & Ben had warned us not to have anything of value on us.
It was skilfully carried out because it was made to look as if I had tried to rob the pickpocket.
He was just ahead & was holding a mobile (probably an old broken one) close to his ear. He swung round backwards & bumped into me – the mobile was dropped (flung) against my leg as I walked forward — thus sending the mobile skittering off a few feet away. Instead of just retrieving it – he bent down & grabbed one of my legs with one hand while with the other made a show of frisking my leg where the mobile had hit it, i.e. trying to make it look as if I had deliberately tried to pinch his mobile.
My wallet was in my front pocket out of harms way and I had a firm grip on it. I freed myself quickly from this & he picked up his mobile from the ground.
But the distraction had enabled his accomplice (who I never saw) to remove the contents of my back pocket … just a few sheets of folded A4 paper.
No harm done but it shows that despite taking all precautions the pickpockets can still catch you unawares.
This all happened so quickly that Judith who was walking slightly ahead of me carried on & hadn’t even noticed what had happened.
Do you have a Madrid pickpocket story? Send it in to help others avoid the same trap!