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Fast-fingered pickpocket reveals techniques

February 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Think you're immune to pickpockets? Think again. Whenever you're part of a crowd, you're at risk of becoming a victim.

Bob Arno has an unusual skill. He is a professional pickpocket, but he's gone straight.

In a recent National Geographic special, Arno infiltrated a pickpocket ring in Italy. In one scene, he actually took the watch off of one the Italian pickpockets.

Stealing a watch is no easy feat. Arno says it's all about distraction.

To prove the point, we walked down Hollywood Boulevard and talked to several people about protecting the items they were carrying. Meantime, Arno went to work.

The first couple was from Sweden, which is Arno's birthplace.

After a few smooth talking words in Swedish from Arno and a couple of questions in English from me, Arno was wearing a pair of glasses that didn't belong to him.

Another couple, who were from New Zealand, got off a tour bus to talk to us and tried to convince us they had nothing of value with them.

"Anything that I don't need, I won't take out," said the man, Steven. "I left my wallet back at the hotel. You know anything, passports, it's all left at the hotel."

Seconds later, Arno had the guy's glasses and his cellphone.

Arno had managed to get Steven's hands out of his pockets, which the tourist said he always keeps in his pockets.

The best was saved for last.

I stopped a gentleman from Japan, a tour guide who was dressed in a coat and tie.

While we talked to the man, Arno was doing his best to distract him.

Asked if he thought Arno could pickpocket him, the man said, "I don't think so."

Right after that, Arno told him he sold neckties to people, some from China, some from Paris, others from Italy.

Arno had taken the tie right from around his neck.

Arno had worked so fast, I didn't even see it.

"The best way to protect yourself so you don't become the weakest link is to simply say No. 1, 'It can happen to me.' If you start out with that, that's a really good start," Arno said.

If you're wondering, Arno didn't take anything from me, I think.