Ecuador: Quito’s Pickpockets

January 30th, 2007

This was maybe the first criminal act targeted towards me in all my months in living South America.

Annett and I had left the internet cafe where we had been working on a project, it was perhaps 9 or 10pm and we had found El Rey’s Sandwiches, a small sandwich shop that sells $1 hot dogs amongst the dozens of bars and clubs in La Mariscal – a tourists haven in the day and party center for Quiteños and tourists at night.
Here, standing on the street corner, I saw several passing up-to-no-good groups of kids ranging from 7-16 years old. Nothing very noticeable, but I’m from central London and know instinctively that they had done, were doing or were about to do something they weren’t supposed to be doing.
It was then stage one happened, I was patted down. Someone who must have been about 8 years old, with his 4 year old brother tagging along attempted to sell me some of his sweets explaining how poor he was, but before hearing my answer turned and walked away casually bumping his hand into my bulging pocket – bulging because it contained the iPod I had been listening too while using the internet minutes before. The boy and his brother continued walking. I still had my iPod and thought this was maybe a failed attempt at taking it.
It was about 10 minutes later, we were almost back at the hotel about 2 blocks from El Rey’s. People were following us. So with Annett I stopped suddenly. The two young boys passed knowing they couldn’t stop too. After a few steps, the older told the younger to stop. They turned around and the older one thrust a large empty bag of sweets in my face pleading with me to buy some. In London, when kids thrust things in your face it means their hands are in your pocket. And they were.
Without really thinking about what I was doing I took a step towards the older kid who had quickly remove his hand and taken several nervous steps backwards. I grabbed the wincing boy by the throat and threw him to the ground pretty hard where he closed his eyes and curled up into a ball. With onlookers shocked, though probably realising what had occurred, we continued walking to the hotel.
The kid wasn’t very talented and hopefully will now consider a career change, as might his tiny brother who was looking on.

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