Pickpocketed in Barcelona: Thoughts on Theft

In preparing to visit Barcelona in March, my wife warned me about the abundance of pickpockets there, so we prepared carefully by using money belts, having photocopies of passports and other information, and making sure that we each had a different credit card (leaving others at home) so that canceling one due to theft would not leave us stranded. Our little group of five (my wife, youngest son, mother-in-law, and one of my sisters) planned how we would stand around each other when using ATM machines to keep codes hidden and prevent theft, etc. And in spite of all that caution, I walked into the bustling crowds at the main market in Barcelona with my little Flip video camera in the pocket of my jacket. While busily taking photos of all the fish and produce with my main camera (firmly gripped, strap usually wrapped around my hand or around my neck to prevent theft), I recall someone bumping into me in a strange way, but didn’t even think about the other camera at that moment. It must have been one of the more clumsy pickpockets, because I’m sure my little Flip video camera could have extracted much more gracefully in that crowd. And maybe it was – maybe the probing bump came after the theft had already taken place.

My son, on the other hand, was intrigued at the thought of pickpockets stalking the streets, and brought a cheap wallet that he put in his rear pocket. He adjusted it so it would stick out and be easy to snatch. This bait was empty, of course, but he wanted to see how the game worked and see where it would be snatched. No one took the bait – a genuine disappointment.

Fortunately, the morning before my little $150 video camera was stolen, I downloaded some precious video files of my granddaughter and cleared the memory. Whew! So the loss wasn’t all that painful. But it did make me ponder the crime of theft.

When someone simply takes something valuable from another person against their will, it is a statement that the other person’s life doesn’t matter, or is not nearly as important as that of the criminal. It’s a terrible, tragic statement. One can try to downplay the seriousness of the crime by saying the other party doesn’t need it and won’t miss it, but how does one know that? Steal a wallet, and the victim might not be able to attend his or hew own wedding, or a funeral, or a job interview that might make all the difference in the world. Steal a little video camera, and previous memories may be lost. Steal a purse, and life-giving medications may be lost. Many tragedies can follow from one simple selfish act, however minor the intended harm was.

One of my most memorable experiences with theft occurred in the happy Mormon town of Provo. It was one of the most trying weeks of my early married life. My wife was expecting our first son, wasn’t feeling well at all, and was insanely busy trying to complete her master’s degree as we went into finals week. I had major challenges with my courses as well and other duties. We were so busy that we simply hadn’t had time to go shopping for a while. I finally hopped in the car and spent $50 on groceries (that was enough to last a couple weeks back then). That was real money, and we didn’t have much. As I came back, I took in about 1/3 of the purchase when the phone rang. Something urgent from the ward. When I got off the phone three minutes later and went back to get the rest of the groceries out of the trunk of our car – a trunk that I had naturally left open in this safe little town – the groceries were gone. Some enterprising person – surely not a BYU student, right? – took advantage of the opportunity and walked off with my groceries. This was a painful loss. We just made do with the bag or two I had brought in. We could laugh about it, but it was a painful laugh.

The theft of groceries or a camera is small time stuff. The theft of massive amounts of all of our money by cancerous corruption in government is far more serious. Witness the incredible Bear-Stearns bailout and the enormous deficit spending by out-of-control politicians who trample upon the limited government principles of the Constitution. And now the same gang behind the credit problems and the erosion of our financial system and currency is demanding that vast new regulatory powers be given to them, to one unelected, unaccountable, unaudited body closely tied to Wall Street, who will help “prevent” further trouble by assuming vast control over the whole nation’s financial services industries as well as our money supply, along with new assumed powers to spend huge amounts of your money without Congressional approval when one of their own needs a bailout. Incredible. And yet so-called conservatives and so-called opponents of “special interests” and so-called representatives of the people and defenders of the little guy from both parties are going along with the idea, as the media (generally owned and certainly influenced by the Wall Street crowd) tells us that this is good for us, that we should trust the Fed to fix things up and strengthen the economy that they have been ravishing. Theft is occurring before our eyes on the most grandiose scale of all time. You don’t have to buy an empty wallet and walk around Barcelona to have the thrill of being victimized this time. You will get to keep your wallet – but it will be emptier than ever. Whew, was that a rant?

And with that cheerful thought in mind, here are a few photos from the amazing city of Barcelona (click to enlarge):

(Some things are even better than paella!)

(Photos are copyright 2008 Jeff Lindsay. Rights are assigned to Planet Lindsay, LLC. FYI, this blog and all my Websites are property of Planet Lindsay, LLC – just so you know who to sue!)

Here’s a Viewbook file with some additional photos (you can view these enlarged in full screen mode by right clicking and selecting “Go full screen”):

Yes, I’m hooked on this city. Such amazing architecture, bustling life, fabulous food, and great people. If you can come up with any excuses for me to return soon, please let me know. Anyone there need a little help with patent strategy, innovation systems, or new business development? Quiero ayudar!


Author: Jeff Lindsay

14 thoughts on “Pickpocketed in Barcelona: Thoughts on Theft

  1. I am not one of the end of the worlders but you got our goverment spot on. Just more selling out.

    Along with the goverment messing with the dollar and the banking system is that business and your goverment is off loading our jobs as fast as they can. Good luck. I know I would not want to be just starting out in the United States as a worker now. Not to sound like a nut job but over my 30 plus years after high school I have watched the country slowly be sold out to those that will pay the most. Every time I see my mothers grand kids I tell them how sorry I am that we are leaving them with such a mess they are going to have to clean up. In 1980 they said each person in the United State owes the goverment $4000 now it is $20,000 in another 25 years it will be $100,000. Good luck. As soon as I retire I will be moving out of the country. I love this country but our goverment is selling us out. I wish you all the best.

  2. The Nephites cried unto the Lord for deliverance when the tax rate was %20. The Americans (including a lot of LDS) are generally either stone quiet or beg for more government (wars, etc.) – what gives?

  3. Read your post – Spain, especially Barcelona, is a prime location which pickpockets really like to target tourists – Sorry about your loss. To prepare you from being targeted in the future – you may want to consider a line of anti-theft waist packs (built specifically for travelers) that feature built-in, anti-pickpocketing features to avoid these types of thefts.

    Typically these features include – security clips (which require two hands to unzip the main compartment), security cables woven into the back strap (preventing a thief from cutting the back strap), rear buckle security cover (preventing someone from simply unsnapping the waist pack’s rear buckle and running away with your pack), and lastly, anti-slashing panels built into the front and sides of the pack (these prevent thieves from slashing the pack and removing the contents – common for children thieves who push cardboard signs into your stomach and use their underhand to cut your waist pack without your knowledge).

    They make these types of anti-theft bags in a variety of styles and sizes ranging from waist packs, to day packs, to womens purses, to gym bags – all designed to help travelers out-fox street thieves and pickpockets.

    You can see these products at http://www.corporatetravelsafety.com If you see something you like, call them and refer them to the incident you just documented. They typically provide discounts to travelers who were ripped off as a good will gesture.

  4. To Anon #1: We’ve got major problems threatening us, to be sure, but this is also an incredible time of opportunity. The same globalization that moves jobs across the world opens up enormous opportunities for those who learn to collaborate. The rewards for innovative thinking, for creativity, for risk taking, can be greater than ever. There are many “innovation fatigue factors” at play, certainly, but if you know what you’re doing, this is also an era of incredible opportunity and excitement. The path is difficult, but this is no time for gloom about the prospects of the rising generation.

    Of course, it would be a lot rosier if only we could put a few more honest men and women into power to protect our freedoms and quit bankrupting the nation on futile ventures that they have no right to pursue.

  5. I had a fellow try to pickpocket me in Prague once — the “strange bump” followed by “excuse me” as a hand probed in my pocket… only to discover that the wallet was locked tightly in my hand.

    Only English I heard all day.

    Beats getting knocked on the head or having a gun stuck up your nose, though.

    With the government here already picking everyone’s pockets, I guess the poor common crooks of the USA are stuck with other, less subtle ways of ripping people off. </cynicism>

  6. [theft] is a statement that the other person’s life doesn’t matter, or is not nearly as important as that of the criminal. It’s a terrible, tragic statement.


    I recently read a *very* interesting article in our local paper about a pilot program where communities can use justice to heal crimes rather than merely punish them.

    Basically (as I understood it, at least), the observation is that the justice system is too often just as impersonal and inhuman as the criminals it processes.

    “The offender, victim and community are the ones who are involved, not the state,” said Jerome Jackson, who initiated the concept in Manchester. He is the program coordinator for the Manchester Citizens Corp. “You pay your debt to the person you harmed rather than to society.”

    The alternative is to get real people, from the neighborhood, involved.

    The most interesting part was this:

    Stephanie Walsh, executive director of the mediation center, said both sides are usually afraid at first. “You’re facing the person you knocked down,” or the person who burgled your house. “A victim will often say, ‘Why did you pick my house?’ and the offender, though a stranger, might say, ‘I didn’t know it was your house.’ “

    … et voilá! You’ve just turned both criminal and victim back into human beings. May not reform every crook, but it’s got to be a better starting place than usual, at least.

    (Sorry for the double post. Hopefully this one’s a little more enlightening instead of cynical, though)

  7. When someone simply takes something valuable from another person against their will, it is a statement that the other person’s life doesn’t matter, or is not nearly as important as that of the criminal.

    Actually you are giving the theft meaning. It is theft, doesn’t have to mean anything other than what it is.

  8. Actually you are giving the theft meaning. It is theft, doesn’t have to mean anything other than what it is.

    Gonna have to disagree with you on that one. If I (speaking rhetorically, here) steal something from you, there are only a few basic ways to “justify” that action:
    1. I have not developed empathy** and cannot comprehend how my action might impact you. IMHO mature adults can’t claim this excuse (children and mentally impaired can).
    2. I have sidestepped my empathy by dehumanizing you. If you’re just a face in the crowd, another house on the street, etc. rather than a real person with a history and feelings, it’s easy to feel like I’m just “harvesting” available resources the way a beekeeper harvests honey.
    3. I have decided that I need (or deserve) the item more than you. The theft becomes a “necessity” which I “must” perform even though I understand its impact on you (the victim). I might even feel bad about my actions… just not bad enough to give it back.
    4. I empathize fully with you and am stealing the item out of spite. I might not even want the item, but want you not to have it because I know you care.

    Thefts motivated by #2 and/or #3 make a statement about the victim to the victim. #1 and #4 make a statement about the crook to the victim. All make a statement to the victim.

    **Empathy: the ability to see things (especially our own actions) from another person’s perspective. Allows us to be caring and conscientious, but also allows us to be nasty and spiteful.

  9. “but if you know what you’re doing, this is also an era of incredible opportunity and excitement. The path is difficult, but this is no time for gloom about the prospects of the rising generation.”

    I am not that gloomy for those that know what they are doing or the rich or lucky. But the bulk of people are just ordinary everyday people that need a job to pay bills, tithing and taxes. Cheap things from around the world are nice but without a mid to high paying blue collar job which are encouraged to be shipped over seas is a big problem for us children of a lesser God. Because of the fifty percent drop out rate in many high schools, illegal aliens driving down the wage for the poorest, and the shipping good paying jobs over seas along with many other problems that congress has created, I do not feel I want to support our government any more than is legally required. I think that the young people that are growing up in the United States will do just fine and will have a better standard of living than most of the people on this planet but I think our businesses and government are selling the American people out to the highest bidder. I work in a industry where the government just gave away $300 billion order with 40,000 to 100,000 jobs to an overseas company that our taxes will pay for. This type of thing has been going on for the last 10 to 20 years in the name of globalization. As the saying goes “a capitalist will sell you the rope to hang himself with.” I plan to go to a country where they don’t have it as good as us so my tax dollars will not go to the US. government.

    Love the photos and glad you had a great time.

  10. Jeff,

    Just to point out, since we are discussing thieves and pickpockets, there is a reason why there are so many and I quote

    “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?”

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