Pickpockets on the Equator
September 2022 trip to Ecuador
The streets in Quito’s old town were crowded and bustling with Ecuadorians hurrying in and out of small stores selling everything imaginable. Feeling a bit hemmed in on a narrow street, I stepped into a doorway to get out of the stream of humanity. Then I looked at my camera bag, a backpack with many pockets, and noticed that an outside pocket was unzipped. I looked inside and the few papers that I kept there were still in place. I guessed that I hadn’t fully zipped everything back up the last time we stopped, closed the pouch, and re-entered the people river. I am a city boy, having grown up in Chicago, and I always have my third eye open and aware of my surroundings, avoiding places that I think might be too risky.
The guidebook cautioned of pickpockets, and I was carrying the bag over only one shoulder with an arm draped over it just in case the warning was not excessive. We passed a small demonstration that was carefully watched by several policemen and saw a sign for an exhibit of posters. We went inside.
It was an international poster competition with entries from all over the world, many critical of Putin and expressing support for Ukraine. Back outside we continued our exploration admiring the restored buildings and people watching. On a very narrow, crowded street I sensed something unusual and left the flow of humanity for the safety of a doorway. The woman behind me stepped by without so much as looking at me.
I paused to look at my bag. All the pockets were now open, but nothing was missing. She was really good, but not fast enough. I carried the bag in both arms and held it to my chest until we were out of the old town. Sue carried her fannypack on the side with her arm around it, but she also noticed that the outside pocket was open after a women had passed her very closely. Nothing was missing.
I had never encountered a pickpocket in any of the other 70 countries Sue and I had been in together, though she was picked once in Zagreb years earlier. We had no other problems in Quito or anywhere else in Ecuador. But it gave us an uneasy feeling while in Quito and colored how we looked at the city. There were tourist police all around the historic district, I guess with good cause. The guide book was right and we remained cautious while in Quito, particularly in the historic old town.