2 / FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
searching for potential targets.Research did not find significantcorrelation between a victimsrace and victimization.Pickpocket incidents oc-curred most often during peak shopping times, which usuallyoccurred outside the station, or during evening rush hours.These victims often reported thetheft to railroad police officers because of a highly visible sub-station in the main concourse of the terminal. After people re- ported a pickpocket crime, pre-liminary interviews revealed thatmost victims had their walletsexposed during the 30 minutes prior to the theft. Then, they puttheir wallets back in their bags, purses, or knapsacks on topof other items, making the wal-lets easily accessible once the pickpocket opened the bag.Closing devices, such as snaps, buckles, zippers, or velcro, proved minor obstacles for the professional pickpocket.Victims often unintention-ally placed bags in an exposed position on their person, and most victims carried the bag over one shoulder. The pickpocketsurveilled the victims and waited for their bags to slip into a vul-nerable position to the rear of thevictims, instead of at a more se-cure place under their arms or toward the front of their bodies.A wallet placed in an outer com- partment of a knapsack and wornover the shoulders presents aneasy target for even the novice pickpocket.Incidents increased duringcold weather and around holi-days. In cold weather, both the pickpocket and the victim wear more clothing, which may facili-tate the pickpockets ability tocommit the crime. The extra lay-ers reduce the victims sense of bodily awareness and provide pickpockets with added cover byshielding movements during thecommission of the crime or pro-viding a place to hide the stolen property if they get caught. Addi-tionally, pickpockets simply mayshed an outer layer of clothingfor one of a different color thatthey are wearing underneath,thereby confusing identification by the victims and in broadcaststo other patrol officers. Pick- pockets also use this tactic inwarm weather; the outer garmenteither can be discarded or hiddenin a plastic bag carried by theoffender.The most significant factor in the victim profile possiblymay be psychological. A crowd-ed terminal creates a distractingenvironment. People are packed together in cramped waiting ar-eas listening for public an-nouncements, watching a depar-ture, carrying packages, or talking on a cellular telephone.The stations environment cre-ates a sensory overload. Further,the victims, conditioned by therush hour atmosphere of the sta-tion, are accustomed to the close physical proximity of other people. Those who use masstransit expect to be bumped and jostled. The victim also expectsto have even less personal spacewhen descending the escalatorsand riding the train, focusingmore on boarding the train and
Officer Young, a former criminal investigator with the Amtrak Police Department in New Jersey, now serves as a civilian criminal defense investigator in New Jersey.
Officers can help prevent individuals from becoming a victim by observing and pointing out certain victim behaviors.