“We must annex those people. We can afflict them with our wise and beneficent government. We can introduce the novelty of thieves, all the way up from street-car pickpockets to municipal robbers and Government defaulters, and show them how amusing it is to arrest them and try them and then turn them loose- some for cash and some for ''political influence.'' We can make them ashamed of their simple and primitive justice. We can make that little bunch of sleepy islands the hottest corner on earth, and array it in the moral splendour of our high and holy civilization. Annexation is what the poor islanders need. ''Shall we to men benighted, the lamp of life deny?''”
Mark Twain, US writer
5th March. Saturday night. We’re in Manchester’s Gay Village, the perfect venue for pickpocketing scum bags: close-knit, narrow streets, all intersecting each other. It would be impossible to monitor a community like this on CCTV.
Certain members of Manchester’s Latin community target the village for this reason- also, of course, because there are lots of drunk people carrying smartphones.
It’s 2am, and we’re looking for a taxi rank. A rich-looking Latino guy approaches my friend R while we’re distracted in the middle of our conversation. He puts his arm around R and dances with him in a salsa style. Then he skips off.
I tell R to check his pockets.
The Latino took his phone.
R and I chase the culprit down the dodgy narrow alley.
“Phone,” demands R. “Now.”
The Latino hands R his phone back. We let him go, which probably isn't the best idea.
R tells me he would never have guessed what had just happened. The only reason I know, I tell him, is because it happened to me. When I reported it to the police, they told me someone else had reported a similar incident. It's obviously happening all over the city, every weekend. The majority of victims will be too drunk to realise what's happened.
A few days later, I contact the Manchester Evening News. I contact Key 103. I link up my first pickpocketing blog post to news websites for Manchester. Yet STILL, I am the only person publicising what is happening. I have had no notice that the media has printed or broadcasted anything regarding this. Why? Why don’t the press publish these stories? Why art there no police warning posters in bars? And more to the point, Why haven’t the police investigated the hubs of Manchester’s Latin culture like The Copacabana club in the Northern Quarter? This bar in particular is known as the top venue for salsa dancing in Manchester. It wouldn’t surprise me if the heart of Manchester’s pickpocketing operations congregated there regularly to brush up on skills.
If the police and the media won’t publicise this, I have no choice but to do it myself. I will bring this operation down.