While many of us like to think of music festivals as all rainbows and butterflies, there often tends to be a bit of darkness intertwined. Theft has always been a major issue at large scale festivals. Car break-ins and tent-sacking are common, but perhaps the most prominent issue is pickpocketing.
Drug use and intoxication of course plays a major role at festivals, and while it may amplify the experience, it also makes the user vulnerable to malicious acts such as pickpocketing. In fact, according to those who have been targeted, thieves will look for particularly inebriated individuals to take advantage of. One reddit user by the name of Picklerick_13 recently detailed his experience with pickpocketes who had specifically targeted him because they thought he was too spun. Turns out he wasn’t, and instead of shooing them away, he coerced them into attempting to pickpocket him in order to learn their methods.
Below are excerpts of Picklerick_13’s description of the pickpocketing attempt, which goes into a very specific detail:
A group of 4 (2 couples) pretended to walk by but idiotically stopped in front of our group (which was clearly a red flag). One girl acted like she was looking around but was obviously looking behind and at me (I chose to pretend to be intoxicated to see what they would do). She then looked to her “bf” and nodded / pointed her head towards me, indicating that I was the target.
He then confirmed by looking at me and nodding to her (in a subtle way). The other couple dances in front of us while this happens and is blocking my view, so that was also another red flag. The “bf” then leaves and the girl gets closer to me and dances with the other couple. She is clearly sober … and is always looking around, kinda like dancing and moving her head with the music but clearly looking at me and my pockets.
Their goal is to have me dance with the girl so she can feel what I have. She attempts to be friendly with our group by fanning us and saying sorry for intentionally bumping. The couple tries to dance backwards and make me move around. I do not engage. I continue to pretend to be intoxicated and move close with my friends. She then talks to the couple saying things like “my back hurts” while bending down or “i’m kinda cold.” I do not engage.
A few minutes go by and she then makes her way next to me. She dances and tries to grace her hand or arm against my pocket. I let her because there is nothing there. (Everything I carry is in my camelback). She continues to dance and she intentionally hits/bumps her buttocks along my hand. I do not engage.
She continued to get close and now that she knows there is nothing in one of my pockets she slowly inches behind me but I do not let her, I continue to gradually dance/back up slowly and with my friends. While all this happens I did my best to keep track of the other members of their group. They definitely try to surround you and be friendly with you so if someone is successful they can pass off the items (phone, wallet, keys, etc.) fairly quickly.
I saw the “bf” scouting for more targets and dancing with randoms. I then saw them communicating with someone new who showed up (this was a guy). He was trying to get himself intertwined with 2 girls by dancing in front of them, fanning them, and making conversation. Luckily they didn’t engage also or I would’ve blown my cover to tell them.
I believe 15-20mins had gone by and they continue to stick with me as the target. My friends didn’t know that this group in front of us were pickpockets and we ended up leaving the set early but i assume when the set ends and you are leaving, other members would have surrounded you at this point so in crowded areas while walking, either one of them could feel your pocket and hit up whatever you have out. You could never know who did it.
My friends and I ended up walking around and we came back to the same spot about 10 mins later. To the side near the fence I see the same individuals in a group the size of about 8-12. You can tell they are huddled and compiling everything they’ve taking from victims in one bag. I could not find security close by and they ended up scattering before anything could be done.
Concerts are an optimal place for pickpockets. Not only are there massive crowds, but many of the people within the crowd are drunk, high, or on other types of drugs that would render them clueless to such activities. Fights can also occur in such situations and nobody wants to be kicked out of the venue after paying (a usually high) price for admission.
With music festivals back (for now), it’s important to keep yourself safe and to lookout for your friends. One way to do that is to be aware of the types of pickpocketing methods that can take place, identify them, and remove yourself (and friends) from the situation.