Capturing a Pickpocket in Havana

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

HAVANA TIMES — At ten in the morning, I was returning from Vedado on a P-5 bus (which goes all the way down to the ocean drive in Old Havana). I got off and crossed the street, heading towards the Plaza de Armas. Suddenly, I hear two young men call me.

“Sir, sir!” I heard them say behind me. When I turned around, I saw that one of the two men, standing across the street, was signaling at me with his hand, telling me to walk towards him. I did.

“Good morning,” they said, showing me your ID card. I was confused.

“Can we see your ID, please?”

“Yes, of course.”

I took out my Identification Card, handed it over to them. The man looked at it but, apparently, wasn’t entirely convinced.

“You should be more discrete,” the other one said in a low tone of voice.

I stared at him straight in the eyes, confused. My expression gradually became more serious. I had no idea what was going on.

“What are you saying? What are you talking about?” I asked insistently.

“That you should be more discrete. We’ve been watching you since you got on the bus. You’ve been trying to pickpocket someone but haven’t gotten the chance yet.”

I couldn’t keep quiet anymore and said to him firmly, looking him straight in the eyes:

“Where did you specialize in spotting pickpockets? I doubt that’s even your job, because you’ll never get anyone the way you’re going about it.”

“Do you work around here?”

“Yes,” I replied, somewhat uncomfortable.

“Could you show me your work ID?”

“Yes, of course.” I showed him my workplace ID and, while he called the station to ask whether I had a criminal record, I leaned against a tree to wait for his response. A minute later, they called me over and said:

“Our apologies, sir! We’re not experts in this sort of thing. The thing is, we’re trying to clamp down on a network of pickpockets who work the P-5 every day. We still have a long way to go.”

“I want you to catch every pickpocket in Havana but – I don’t know, I could be wrong – but it seems like you’re way off target!”

3 thoughts on “Capturing a Pickpocket in Havana

  • Jorge, I can see it now, you just look so much like a pickpocket ja ja ,tu amigo paul.

  • Give ’em some time, Jorge! Sounds like they’re “Palestinos” who are new to the job. OTOH, I observed a uniformed officer on the “Tren Hershey” expertly diffuse a tense situation that could have quickly escalated into violence. He used some psychology, and a joke, and both potential “combatants” wound up laughing.

  • Jorge did not explain why he backtracked and crossed the street to talk to the two guys in the first place. Had they identified themselves as police officers already? What an odd sequence of events.

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