Here we refer to Gibbs’s Rule #35, ‘Always Watch the Watchers.’ Gibbs is a cop, and his rule applies to people who are watching the scene of the crime. The criminal often comes back, and exhibits telltale signs that they don’t fit in among those who are simply curious.
Our variation of his rule applies to people who are watching the scene of the future crime. We want you to see them, identify them as possible thieves, and (casually) look them in the eye. Once they know you’ve marked them, their natural reaction will be to stay away. And keeping them away is, after all, the purpose of our pickpocket repellent. Not to have them fail when they try to pick your pocket, but to deter any attempt before it happens.
To apply Ingredient #6, you’ll need a trowel and a wet rag … oh wait, that’s for applying grout. For Ingredient #6, all you need is to overcome the tunnel vision that people tend to adopt in crowds. For example, when in a crowd, you ‘see’ all the people in much the same way that you ‘see’ the table while eating your sandwich. It’s there, but you’ve tuned it out. Think about anything you may be doing … riding public transit, walking anywhere, watching a street performer, etc. Your focus is narrow. The crowd is there but the details are tuned out.
The exception, when you will purposely tune in and focus on individuals around you, is when you are “people watching.”
So, normal behavior in crowds: Tune them out.
“People watching” behavior in crowds: Tune them in.
To apply Ingredient #6, just turn on the people watching switch, and leave it on at all times. Look around. Look at individuals. Enjoy watching them. But also make a game of it, to see if you can tell who is behaving ‘normally’ and who is a filch (or, as per our definition in Ingredient #5, a member of a filch).
Chances are you won’t recognize them, but if you happen to catch their eye, they won’t know that you don’t know. And if they know you might know, they’ll probably go. Elsewhere.
Tips to spot the filch (individual or group): Remember, pickpockets are really good at blending in, and are usually locals. It's like trying to spot a referee at a zebra convention. Here are some things to watch for. Is someone loitering, maybe reading a newspaper, looking at their phone, etc., in an unusual location? Are they looking toward their phone, or a sign, or a book, but for too long, or as if they aren’t fully aware of it (because they’re aiming their eyes at the phone, but using peripheral vision to scout for targets)? Is someone looking around or in a different direction while everyone else is looking at the street performer? If someone looks pretty much like everyone else, but has a different expression, body language, or 'feel' about them, label them as 'possible threat,' and look them in the eye for an extra beat or two (whether they look back or not).