New initiative turns pickpocketing on its head
LONDON, 19th August 2009 – A new initiative is turning pickpocketing on its head by using ex-pickpockets to put money into Briton's pockets on the sly.
"Put-Pocketing" is the act of secretly putting money into someone’s pocket without them noticing, and is the challenge faced by a team of 20 specialist "put-pockets" in a current scheme being rolled out nationwide.
People who have been "Put-Pocketed" will find money – ranging from a £5 or £20 note - in their pocket. They will also find attached to this a small card with a short message from the project sponsors, TalkTalk.
Former pickpocket and now TalkTalk Head of Put-Pocketing, Chris Fitch, said: "It feels good to give something back for a change - and Britons certainly need it in the current economic climate. Every time I put money back in someone’s pocket I feel less guilty about the fact I spent many years taking it out. Put-Pocketing is just as much of a challenge, and requires all the same stealth and skills".
Mark Schmid of TalkTalk said "With so many scams out there, Britons have become very sceptical of companies giving money away – so we have turned to Put-Pocketing to give something back. Whilst unconventional, we don’t think anyone is going to mind finding a crisp £20 in their pocket courtesy of the activity".
The initiative is led by phone and broadband provider, TalkTalk, who launched the activity to brighten up Britons lives in unusual ways.
The Put-Pocketing initiative has been piloted in London since July 1st, and will continue until the end of August before being rolled out nationwide to major UK cities. London locations being targeted include Leicester Square, Oxford Circus, Covent Garden, Westminster, Trafalgar Square and The South Bank, as well as the tube network. Signs proclaiming “Rejoice! Put pockets operating in this area” are being displayed across activity areas to help Britons distinguish between TalkTalk Put-Pocketing and real pick pockets.
Mr Schmid said: “The activity will avoid the City and Canary Wharf financial areas as we want to give the money to people who actually need it. The Put-Pockets have actually been briefed to avoid people that look like they are very well-off”.
The Put-Pocketing teams were recruited specifically for the task and include ex-pickpockets who have to demonstrate their skill in a specially adapted interview which focuses on sleight of hand and in-field skill. Once in the team, Put-Pockets are briefed on who to target, and where. They are given a specific ID to show to public if caught in the act, and have plain-clothed minders who will intervene to calm and explain the situation if spotted. In addition, the Metropolitan police have been briefed on the activity so Put-Pockets aren’t arrested. However, to date, no-one has been caught red-handed.