The Feb, 1930 issue of Modern Mechanix carried a story about Scaltiel, a stage-performer whose act revolved around picking pockets. Scaltiel claimed to have learned his trade after being inducted into a guild of pickpockets who tested him on a "bell-dummy" whose every pocket "was wired so that the slightest touch would result in the ringing of a bell, showing that the amateur thief was clumsy."
Sometimes a thief will go to great lengths to "contact" his victim. He will drop a glove under the seat of some innocent party without being seen. Then the thief will retrieve the glove and offer it to his victim who believes that some polite person has made a mistake. He will speak to the thief, unaware that while he is looking at the thief, the nimble fingers are exploring his pockets or extracting a stick pin or "lifting" a watch. The thief is holding out the glove with his right hand while his left "mit" is at work. The public is most in danger of being robbed while in a crowd. The theater lines and groups near cloakrooms often harbor pickpockets. Although you may often suspect an innocent party if you are carrying valuables in a crowd beware of the man who holds a newspaper or magazine or has a coat slung over his arm. The pickpocket with a coat over his arm can work easily with one hand shielded by the folds of the garment.Amateur PICK POCKETS Study in CRIME College
Women who carry their valuables in handbags swung from handles are a constant source of inspiration to pickpockets for even while walking on the street or standing in a streetcar a pickpocket can open the bag, extract the valuables and close the bag without being detected and without much chance of alarming the victim.
The profession of the pickpockets is not by any means limited to men for some of the most skillful of such thieves are women and girls. Often a man will be crowded against a young woman and while he may be embarrassed the girl is not for she may be taking his watch or pocket book. Very often such girls operate with a confederate to whom she will pass her loot. The confederate will then disappear in the crowds.
Shameless Screen Grab courtesy of Boing Boing
Villains have had and do have many diverse Skills and Talents.One had thought the link above was for "Study in Crime College" - but no, it turns out "Study crime IN college". Bah! That would be a terrible honey pot though: You receive your diploma from Crime College, and then graduate to prison.
Quite a bit on the Art of Pickpocketing. And it was so much more skillful than pointing a gun and demanding cash.