How not to become a victim of CTA pickpockets

Last week I heard from a woman who was a victim of a pickpocket team. She wants me to share her story to educate you all about these doofuses. Her story starts below. Thanks for sharing, Isabel.

Also, the Tamale Chica wrote me separately to share a blog post by a cop who was trying to chase down a team of pickpockets with a similar modus operandi as Isabel ran into. Read that post here.

Here’s Isabel’s story:

Today, I experienced being pick-pocketed and had my CTA card stolen. I’m always aware of my surroundings and notice things, people, etc.
I was on my way home around 5:30 this afternoon (9/10/09). while I was walking to the overpass at the Merchandise Mart, I noticed three gentlemen walking from the Brown/Purple Line over to the Orange line platform. I had my CTA bus card (face up) in lanyard and when I walk, I usually swing it back and forth-something I always do. once I got to the Brown/Purple side of the platform, I noticed 1 or 2 of those 3 men walk towards me to catch the train.

As the train was coming into the station, I placed my card into the outer pocket of my backpack and put my backpack back on. The train was now in and I was about to board when one those men stood right next to me. He then stepped onto the train but got his foot “stuck” between the train opened doors and the platform. I waited a few seconds and he wouldn’t move.

I knew he was faking, just by the way he was acting. I thought
perhaps that he was trying to setup CTA, little did I know, he or
someone else took my lanyard out of the pocket of my backpack. when I
finally got through, I sat down, took my backpack off and saw the
pocket unzippered. I’m glad it was only my bus card and not my purse.
I got off at Chicago and went to a CTA employee and told her what
happened. She radioed the station, I was sure he was gone. She then
suggested I call CTA to cancel my card, which I did. I was told by the
CTA customer support representative that I can pick up my new card the
next day or it can be mailed to me. I told her I could pick it
tomorrow. BTW, I knew CTA could only do so much, but I appreciated the
courtesy I was given by the CTA employee at the Chicago Brown Line stop.
Even though I was suspicious, I was trying not to be judgmental. I
would like to think there are good people in this world. Being raised
in the city and a somewhat rough part of town, yet again, I’m forced to
be judgmental/cautious of everyone that crosses my path.
Basically i’m writing in regards to cameras on CTA platforms. This
would give CTA the advantage of getting pickpockets, at least
identifying them and posting their photos to make people aware and more
I would like for my voice to be heard. I’m sick and tired of this happening.


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  • I am a little confused by the story. I didn't think that the Orange Line went to the Merchandise Mart.

  • In reply to eBob:

    I've seen it in the past where the Orange and Brown lines are "merged" into one run due to construction (in the loop?). A Brown line train would continue to the Mart, then become and Orange line train and the opposite would occur at Roosevelt. That's an anomaly but could still create confusion.

  • In reply to eBob:

    I would love to see cameras setup with facial recognition technology. Imagine our victim notifies an attendant, the attendant calls security to locate the perps on camera, and then the perps digital faces are lifted and then searched for on all new video feeds so that in the future our suspects can be apprehended. The technology exists, they do it in London, why not here?

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Because we actually value privacy.

  • In reply to reub2000:

    You have no right to privacy in a public place. The cameras are already there; why not do something useful with them?

  • In reply to reub2000:

    Thanks for sharing. I think we all should be more aware of our surroundings. Be cautious but don't walk around in fear. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

  • Right... and both sides are the Brown/Purple Line.

    And cameras won't make pickpockets go away. Pickpockets work by crowding, as Isabel describes. Maybe on a crowded train, you're the last one on and you feel someone pushing behind you as if they're trying to make it on, and then you notice your wallet's missing. (I saw that happen once.) It isn't something a camera *can* see, and it's a crime of opportunity. The only defense is to be vigilant and to report it immediately, as Isabel did.

  • The problem was she put her card in the back zipper of her backpack where she would never feel/notice if someone opened it up and took it out. These guys are pros. She should put it in a harder to reach pocket.

    Cameras will do nothing to stop this behavior.

  • Don't wear your backpack on the train. Carry it in front of you where you can see it. This also makes more space for other customers.

  • This is a very old trick. I've seen the foot-stuck-in-the-door trick, the I'm-not-sure-which-way-to-go trick (a guy walks in, stops right in the middle of the space where the doors are and looks around as if he's not sure which way to go. As he's doing this, people are stopping to try and get around him and some of them are being pickpocketed). I've even see the rare I-think-I've-forgotten-something-when-I-got-dressed-this-morning trick (a woman wearing short skirt drops something, bends over to pick it up, she's not wearing underway and while some guy or girl is gawking, they're pinched). This has been going on since I was in high school on the trains (won't say how long that has been). I know your first instinct is wonder if everything is alright and let the person take care of it, but the minute you figure it out, don't be afraid to push the person in front of you. If you're wrong, so be it. I've seen people become a victim of this, realize it and then hold the frontman until the cops come. But to make yourself safe, keep everything in front of you: wallet in front pocket, cards in front pockets of shirt or jacket. These pickpockets never attack from the front. They aren't that good. They always attack from the rear. Keep your valuables in front of you so you can keep an eye on them

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