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Olympic security tip: stay alert for pickpockets

One of the new security ads now on our system!

One of the new security ads now on our system!

You may notice some new ads on the system, urging you to stay alert for pickpockets during the Olympic period.

Our Transit Police are hoping to let people know that professional pickpockets are expected at the Olympics—they tend to flock to international events on this scale.

“We don’t want people to be paranoid,” said Sgt. Mark Applejohn with the Transit Police. “But we’re coming from the angle that to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

I asked Sgt. Applejohn if he had any tips, and he suggested that you keep your valuables close, and be aware of your surroundings, especially in large crowds.

He also said that pickpocketers tend to work in partnerships, with one person distracting you while another goes through your purse or pockets. One may take your wallet and pass it to a confederate before you’ve noticed.

“A well-known scheme in Europe uses young children to distract older people,” he said.

Pickpockets may also cut the straps of a purse or cut open the bottom of your bag.

“They’re extremely good at it, and that’s why to combat this kind of thing, we want you to be aware of what kind of things they do.”

Sgt. Applejohn also suggests that you do report any pickpocketing incidents to 604-515-8300—the Transit Police will act on it and won’t take it lightly.

A few other items….

There’s also a few other messages going up along with the pickpocket notices, such as:

  • Separated from your party while on transit? Before you travel, come up with a plan in case this happens, especially if you have kids. Maybe you can get off at the next station, or your children might be advised to stay put in a meeting place. Remember you can use the security phones in the stations, and SkyTrain attendants and security staff will help get you all back together.
  • Look out for unattended packages! Call the Transit Police if there’s something you want to report: 604-515-8300. Or you can send the Transit Police an anonymous text through their new Crimestoppers line in BC: text to 274637 and include the keyword “BCTIP”.

9 Comments

  • By David M, January 28, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

    Interesting. There’s a fine line between making sure the public is aware and fear-mongering. I don’t know, but I really think the Olympic security is way over the top, in your face. I didn’t think this was the Canadian way and for that I’m deeply disappointed.

    I can only imagine the image of cananda people will take a way – metal detectors security roaming the streets, posters warning of pick-pockets.

    It’s not an image to be proud of. There are other ways to do this, but it seems we’ve chosen the most disruptive possible. My two cents.

  • By jim, January 28, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

    David,

    Better safe than sorry. Easy to criticize, until someone takes your wallet, or creates ‘problems’ in a venue (Munich games, for example). Maybe the Transit Police is educating the public based on lessons learned from Police Agencies charged with providing services for previous games.

    Just curious, what are the other, non-disruptive ways to provide security? I don’t mean to be a jerk at all; it would be interesting to know what other methods could be used.

  • By David, January 28, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    I had someone attempt to take something from my backpack last week while walking to a station.

    It’s very important to remain aware of your surroundings and if you think, even for a second, that you’re being followed then abruptly change course and attempt to make eye contact with the person behind you. Most pickpockets and similar thieves are looking for easy targets and prefer not to be noticed at all. I shook off my suspect by turning into the doorway of a store (I don’t even know if it was open). When I looked back a man in a blue jacket quickly turned his face and walked the other way.

    Munich was definitely a tragedy we don’t want repeated, but unless we throw away the rights of every resident of a buffer zone by searching their homes and forcing them to move away for a month, the risk of terrorism remains.

    How many people are shocked when they learn that a neighbouring house has been a grow op or meth lab for months? If drug dealers can hide in our neighbourhoods then terrorists with years to plan their attack can do it.

  • By Jim, January 29, 2010 @ 8:02 am

    Good to hear that you averted being pickpocketed! Your stretgy works very well, and I have used similar methods of remaining safe and secure in the past.

    Your points are valid, however I disagree to some extent. Getting back on topic, isn’t being aware of one’s surroundings what Transit Police are emphasizing by issuing the statements on pickpocketing? The blog entry even states “I asked Sgt. Applejohn if he had any tips, and he suggested that you keep your valuables close, and be aware of your surroundings, especially in large crowds”.

    The risk of terrorism will always remain no matter how much security or perceived security there is at an event. However, using metal detectors outside of venues to identify potential problems is not “throw[ing] away the rights of every resident of a buffer zone” (I do not know if the organizing committee will be using them –it’s an example referring to the original comment). This method is designed to prevent individuals or groups from carrying concealed weapons into a controlled area (into a venue, for example). Tacit consent is provided by those attending events by entering the venue. Often, the terms and conditions are explained on the back of event tickets.

    I’m not sure what the meth lab/ grow op example refers to in this case besides terrorists planning attacks under ‘our’ noses, however, at the end of the day, I think it is a good thing that Transit Police are taking a proactive approach to educating the public before someone gets burned. At least the Transit Police are being honest and open about what could happen. And that is an image to be proud of when welcoming the world.

  • By Dave 2, January 29, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

    The other day I was pondering the “Please Hold On, Sudden Stops Are Sometimes Necessary” warning on Skytrain. This warning is in English only. I’m not sure how that could be expressed in a pictogram. I’m sure most regular Skytrain commuters know what I’m talking about, those 80km/h to 0 km/h in 4 seconds or less emergency stops that are “sometimes necessary”

  • By Sean, January 29, 2010 @ 11:24 pm

    I remember being in London in 1996 at a time of “hightened” security and saw more security on the transit system than I’ve ever seen here. One kind man took the time to advise us that pick pocketing was very common on the tube and in various neighbourhoods. He even pointed out a few posters alerting the public to this potential crime. Had it not been for a London resident and the posters we saw we would not have been aware and probably wouldn’t have taken extra care.

    I don’t think posters advising people about potential problems is a bad thing. I think it’s good for us as hosts and probably a good reminder for all of us to be mindful of would be criminals.

  • By Cliff, January 30, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

    I think back to when I was much younger and had it all figured out, supposedly. Having my wallet on a chain was functional and secure. I stopped doing that, but it’s probably one of the best ways to deal with pickpockets. I suppose I did have it all figured out!

    People determined to cause trouble at the Olympics will find a way to do it, regardless of any security measures.

    I only hope that police will rigidly enforce laws around the venues, especially in regards to aggressive panhandlers, people known to police, and Critical Mass (whose activities can certainly be regarded as terrorism).

    Avoiding crowded areas is a no brainer. Crowds form because large groups of people are in a hurry to get to a certain place. If you plan ahead then you can avoid crowds very easily. Are you getting off the SeaBus? Why dive in to the crowd? If you simply wait a full minute (seriously, all it takes is one minute), then you’ve got the whole walkway to yourself!

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