NYC Pickpockets Are On the Endangered Species List

Guess you can start keeping your wallet in your back pocket again. The Daily News says pickpocketing -- that age-old relic of urban petty crime -- is nearing extinction. Because the only pickpockets left are practically fossils themselves.

According to the News, NYPD Transit Bureau police say that nearly all of the "career pickpockets" on the city's subways these days are in their 40s and 50s, a far cry from the days where "teenagers as young as 13" were "learning the tricks of the trade." (The city currently keeps tabs on about 50 known pickpockets, the oldest of whom is 75, the News says.)

Why? Maybe it's that the "artful" crime really doesn't pay -- police told the paper that pickpockets with prior arrests can wind up in prison for more than two years if they're convicted of grand larceny. These days, "old-timer pickpockets have griped" that "young guys" would rather sell drugs.

Pickpockets are pretty serious about all that "honor" stuff, too. The News says pickpocket culture has an established hierarchy. "Lush workers," for instance, are a subset of pickpockets that are looked down on for stealing from blacked-out straphangers. ("There's no skill in that line of work, no honor.")

One might argue there's not a whole lot of honor in stealing from clueless tourists, to begin with, but that might interfere with the News' rather bizarre sense of nostalgia for falling prey to some creep on the subway who's trying to steal your credit card.

Besides, there are worse things than having your MetroCard swiped.

Getting murdered, for instance.

[shernandez@villagevoice.com]

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