Apparently, they’re a dying breed. An article in Slate today stated that in 1990, the NYPD logged 23,000 reports of pickpocketing.
By 2000, the number was less than 5,000. And these days, pickpocketing is so rare, police no longer keep stats on it, Slate reported.
But flash back to the first half of the 20th century, when colorful scare stories of pickpockets were all over New York newspapers.
The one above, from a 1922 edition of The New York Times, warns about a pickpocket subtype called the “lush worker.”
“The lush worker patrols the streets late at night and when he sees a drunk ‘tails’ him. If convenient and if his proposed victim is intoxicated enough, he makes friends with him. Perhaps he helps him across a crowded street, and takes his watch in pay for the service.”
A second subtype: the lady pickpocket. From a 1916 Times story:
“These women, and there are quite a number of them, do their stealing in the department stores and in the fashionable candy shops and ice cream and soda water ‘parlors’ on Fifth Avenue.
“They dress well, and like the male pickpocket, two or more of them usually work together. The one who does the stealing passes the plunder to her sister pickpocket, so if she is caught and searched nothing will be found on her.”