Picking pockets without a person’s knowledge and approval is a crime, a form of larceny which involves the stealing of money and valuables from the person of a victim without their noticing the theft at the time. It requires considerable dexterity and a knack for misdirection. Someone who picks pockets is known as a pickpocket.
Pickpockets and other thieves, especially those working in teams, sometimes apply distraction, such as asking a question or bumping into the victim. These distractions sometimes require sleight of hand, speed, misdirection and other types of skills.
Famous fictional pickpockets include The Artful Dodger and Fagin, characters from the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. Famous true-life pickpockets include the Irish-American prostitute Chicago May, who was profiled in the books Chicago May, Queen of the Blackmailers and Hell Hath No Fury: Famous Women in Crime.
Pickpocket skills are also used by magicians, either to take an item from a spectator or to return it without their knowledge. James Freedman, a.k.a ‘The Man of Steal’, created the pickpocket sequences for the 2005 film Oliver Twist directed by Roman Polanski. Time Out magazine wrote that James Freedman is “possibly the world’s best pickpocket”. Professional illusionist David Avadon featured pickpocketing as his trademark act for more than 30 years and promoted himself as “a daring pickpocket with dashing finesse” and “the country’s premier exhibition pickpocket, one of the few masters in the world of this underground art.