Caught in the Act (for Bruce)

Uploaded 13 Oct 2010 — 19 favorites
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© Deborah Downes
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More of Deborah Downes’s Photos

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Photo Info
UploadedOctober 14, 2010
TakenOctober 10, 2010
MakeNikon Corporation
Exposure1.5 sec at f/7.1
FlashNo Flash
Focal Length32 mm

Travel & Places, Urban

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Q: Story of the week

A: Do you know?

Photo license: © All rights reserved

For those who didn’t see my post on facebook, last Sunday Fred and I spent an hour and a half at a police station in Rome, following a hair-raising ride in the back seat (solid plastic and little leg room) of a police car over cobble stone streets. About an hour earlier, within a crowded subway car in Rome, Fred grabbed the wrist of a pretty gypsy woman (about nineteen and dressed like an average teenager). He saw her drop his wallet on the floor while yelling it was stolen. She couldn't speak a word of English, but kept shaking her head and opening the bag she carried to show she didn't have the cash taken from his wallet. Still gripping her wrist, Fred held up his wallet and told everyone in the car he saw her drop it and was going to take her to the police.
At the next stop the three of us got out, as well as another young woman who obviously was with the one who snatched Fred's wallet. The one Fred firmly held onto kept yelling at the other woman. A passerby, another woman, after hearing Fred's story, told him the pickpocket kept saying her friend took his money and insisted she give it back to him. The so called friend took off before we got onto the escalator that took us up to the entrance level of that part of Rome’s tubes. There we spotted a booth and station guards. Though the guards spoke little English, Fred got them to understand what had happened. One of them called the police, while the pickpocket kept claiming she was innocent and that her friend was coming and would return the cash.

It took a long time for the police to show up. During that time, a well dressed young man appeared, carrying a man's purse. He handed Fred wadded up cash that was the exact amount stolen. He expected Fred would then let go of the pickpocket. He didn't. Said he was going to turn her over to the police. The young man didn't speak English, but apparently understood. Looking upset, he didn't argue; just walked away.
As we continued to wait for the police, I took this photo of the escalator below me with a woman on it. Just as I snapped the shot one of the subway guards told me to stop. Taking pictures in the subway station is forbidden. I jerked while taking the shot and knew it would be blurred. I almost deleted it.
Eventually, two policemen showed up. They were very nice. After hearing Fred's story, asked if we'd please go with them to the nearest police station to help fill out a report. The pickpocket was taken in one police car and we in another. Up until then the pickpocket didn't appear overly concerned, like she thought she'd be back out on the streets in no time, once again working with a team of thieves spending their days on crowed subway cars stealing wallets and other valuables they can get their hands on.
The pickpocket Fred caught in the act broke down in tears once learning she’d for sure go to jail because she's over eighteen. The police were most grateful for Fred's help and obviously impressed by his reaction to the theft. The police interpreter told us the Romanian gypsy pickpocket gangs in Rome are a huge problem, especially because now they are often made up of young people dressed like the average teenager. She also said most people would be too afraid to react to the situation the way Fred did.
I'm very proud of how Fred handled everything. Now if only what he did could turn around the life of that pickpocket. Sadly, it most likely won't, because of how she was raised and her deep ingrained loyalty to the community to which she belongs. At the very least, though, Fred’s reaction (something he wouldn’t have done under threatening circumstances) saved a few people from losing their valuables.
BTW, the next time we’re in a crowded place Fred will have on a money pouch under his shirt rather than carry a wallet. He thought because his wallet fit tight in his front pocket and that pocket was covered with my camera bag (he usually carries for me) his wallet was safe.

19 responses

  • Sonia Adam Murray

    Sonia Adam Murray gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    What a harrowing experience and Bravo for Fred in confronting the stituation and taking it all the way to the police station!

  • Carol Holmes

    Carol Holmes gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    Wow what a story...kudos Fred for doing the right thing! Your image is like the fire inside of Fred, who wasn't going to give up!

  • Judy and Wayne Wanamaker

    Judy and Wayne Wanamaker gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    Wow, what drama!! Your shot somehow portrays the story! I find it amusing that while all that was going on, you thought to take a picture of the escalator! Great shot and story, Deb! A great tale for your granddaughters....when they are a little older maybe. :-)

  • Lanis Rossi

    Lanis Rossi gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    Wow! Pretty intense story! I'm glad your husband got his money and wallet back and hopefully this story will help save others from a smiliar fate.

  • Susan Littlefield

    Susan Littlefield gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    An incredible story, Deb!! I'm just glad that everything turned out so well!

  • Maura Wolfson-Foster

    Maura Wolfson-Foster gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    OMG.....Fred is SO brave. Glad someone didn't grab your camera. What a story Deborah - very glad to hear you are both safe!

  • Ann Reece

    Ann Reece gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    Wow, what an amazing time you had and kudos to Fred for standing his ground! I'm just glad that it did not turn violent for you!!! Excellent story Deborah!

  • Alexis - Now on Flickr

    Alexis - Now on Flickr gave props (14 Oct 2010):

    A really interesting story. The picture is absolutely beautiful, in an ethereal way that contrasts completely with the gritty urban nature of your adventure - another layer to this! And for you to think of taking the picture in the middle of all that was going on shows you are a photographer to the bone :)

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes gave props (15 Oct 2010):

    @Ann: Fred wouldn't have done what he did if it was the least bit threatening. His biggest concern was over someone attacking him for the way he grabbed the woman, which is why he was very vocal about her having snatched his wallet and taken the cash. @Alexis: I find the image haunting, like the spirit of the young woman Fred caught in the act of stealing. Though she's responsible for her actions, I can't help but see her as trapped by the constraints of the society she was raised in. I do have a driving need to capture moments in time. Just didn't expect this image to represent what I was feeling at that time.

  • Leslie Hunziker

    Leslie Hunziker   gave props (15 Oct 2010):

    Wow! What an adventure Deborah! We were warned about this before visiting Italy, but we had to problems. Well, look at this as an adventure. And what a beautiful shot you got out of it.

  • Bruce Miller

    Bruce Miller (Deleted) gave props (16 Oct 2010):

    Beautiful and fitting capture.

  • Bruce Miller

    Bruce Miller (Deleted) gave props (16 Oct 2010):

    And a big thanks of course!xo

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes gave props (16 Oct 2010):

    @Leslie: We do regard it as a learning adventure. @Bruce: I immediately thought of your beautiful abstracts when this shot first popped up on my computer screen.

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (17 Oct 2010):

    Wow! What an amazing story and that took quick thinking on Fred's part and also that he caught it happening...Your picture is truly beautiful that you captured...

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (17 Oct 2010):

    Fabulous indeed.

  • Carol Arntsen Masiak

    Carol Arntsen Masiak gave props (20 Oct 2010):

    what a story and the image is wonderful...

  • Jan Hoffman

    Jan Hoffman gave props (21 Oct 2010):

    Great shot even without the fascinating back-story. Your experience should be instructive to all who travel.

  • eithne mythen

    eithne mythen gave props (24 Oct 2010):

    Wow what an adventure and bravo Fred.... I can't believe that guy handed him the money!!! Love the shot you got it turned out great..

  • Nadeem Shafi

    Nadeem Shafi gave props (14 Apr 2012):

    What a story. Couldnt stop reading. Picture is a great accompaniment.

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