Pickpockets parade at Euro

Plainclothes members of the Geneva Police anti-crime squad patrol near the train station area in...

Plainclothes members of the Geneva Police anti-crime squad patrol near the train station area in Geneva May 22, 2012. The newly created squad patrol the city centre in order to prevent robberies and pick-pocket. (Denis Balibouse/REUTERS)

James Lawton, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:54 PM ET

KIEV, UKRAINE - As muggings go, it was more adroit than violent, an arm dropping over the shoulder, a sharp push and then a successful lunge into a back pocket containing some cash. When the mugger flew, a large and quite elderly Ukrainian first threw his briefcase, then attempted to grapple him down.

It was a brave performance from a fellow citizen of the world in an incident that is commonplace in every big-city street. If you travel a little, you tend to risk mugging, and this was hardly a maiden experience.

They have come in Barcelona and London and Warsaw and New Orleans over the years, but what was most remarkable about this one on a bright midday in a broad and well-peopled city-centre street at the start of the European Championship being hosted by the Ukraine and Poland, was some astonishing after-care.

Within 15 minutes of reporting the crime to the city police, my rented apartment was filled not only with detectives, uniformed police, special police, a paramedic concerned that I had been hurt ( I wasn't), several heavily armed officers with lapels that said in English "Alert Team," and at least one photographer.

I had to give a detailed account of my activities from the moment I cashed some U.S. dollars at a nearby supermarket exchange desk, made some purchases (a bottle of milk, which turned out to be yogurt -- apparently excellent for settling the stomach, but not ideal for instant coffee -- a packet of biscuits, three bananas and some mineral water), a stroll for some lunch at a cafe just a few hundred metres from the apartment, and a walk to some drastically delayed work.

One police officer assured me the culprit would be tracked down. In the morning, I have to go around to the central police station, perhaps to inspect an identity parade.

If there is a lesson, it is maybe the one about the need to be alert, not be lulled into complacency by the time and the pleasantness of the day. One theory is that my assailant witnessed the transaction at the cash desk, noted where I had casually put my money and then waited for his chance.

Maybe that was foolish and so I probably have no one to blame but myself. Muggers and pickpockets come to big events and the warnings used to be one of the charms of a big race or a big fight. Yesterday, a little of that colour had worn off -- at least until so many different uniforms came so swiftly to the scene of the crime.

Kiev's finest, operating in the glare of a major sports event, are plainly geared to significant response.

- James Lawton writes for The Independent in the UK


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