The unmistakable screams of the freshly robbed
I suppose there are many reasons one might scream in the night, but people who scream in the instants after their bags have been snatched are unmistakable. The screams are desperate, often hysterical. You can tell that the victim is in motion. Quite often you’ll hear several sets of running footsteps. There are the yells of the slightly more calm, urging others to ¡cogenlo! (catch him), stop him. If the thief gets away, as is usual, the screams change to disbelieving wails of despair and broken sobbing. Then silence returns. Bag, money, passport, credit cards, mobile phone, hotel key, personal things – all gone in a flash.
When I first moved to Barcelona we lived in an area where this scene was played out several times a week, occasionally right under our balcony. We lived on the first level up, in an entresuelo. I’d never experienced anything like it in my life. I’d dash downstairs, once with my inline skates on – and those were the days when I was a heckuva skater, to join the chase.
I started compiling my stories and those of others into a page of Barcelona Street Scams. This interest eventually led me to meet Bob Arno and Bambi Vincent (blog). They’re professional thief hunters. I imagine they’re about the best in the world at what they do. As I’ve promised before, I will one day post the story of my ancestral connection to Bob.
Over the years I’ve managed to stop probably 5 robberies. Usually this means chasing until the thief gives up and drops the bag. Then you make your way slowly back to the grateful would-be victim.
But once I did rather more. Below is the email I sent afterwards. There’s no need to point out that it was probably dumb. It’s not as though you stop to think.
From terry Thu Jun 7 01:26:35 +0200 2001 Message-ID: <email@example.com> Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2001 01:26:35 +0200 To: dsmith -AT- cs.unm.edu, high -AT- hci.ucsd.edu today i saw a bag snatching happened about 20/30 yards in front of me 2 guys on a motorbike the back guy leans sideways smooth as can be takes the handle of a bag from an old well dressed woman they head off down the side of the church right next to where i live the people yell out to the people at the end of the street looking away from me i am in motion sprinting. i zoom past the robbed going absolutely flat out heading to the end of the street thinking i had no chance at all but, around the corner not more than 5 yards i see the guys on the motorbike caught behind some walking other people (there is construction there which makes it narrower harder to pass) this is right on the corner of paseo del borne (our street) and montcada and....................... i fucking tackled them yeah over the top arms spread to get them both at once guys to the ground motorbike to the ground me falling stepping over the top grazed shin, no more i wasn't thinking really just knew i had to stop them couldn't do it as good as it could have been and as it was the bike crashed down almost into some people beside it who had no clue what the fuck was going on the guys jumped up yelled ripped off their helmets and flung them away one smacking hard into the wall and sprinted off leaving one shoe behind i was pretty surprised didn't occur to me that the bike was stolen too the cops turned up in about a minute flat there were 30 or 40 people gathered around talking like crazy no-one knew what had happened the robbed people just came around the corner to find a mess one guy saw it and one woman the woman acted like my PR agent telling the entire crowd over and over that i was a hero it was great so funny i smiled and bowed to them all like an idiot hamming it up the robbed people thrust a 2000 ptas reward into my hands absolutely insisted that i take it (we ate it in pizza later) the cops shrugged it off called in the stolen bike it was pretty cool i could get into being a vigilante i should have tried to have held one of the guys but i thought hitting them hard sideways and knocking their bike over would do it but, it wasn't their bike i was smiling afterwards the most exercise i've had since beating derek to the office on skates a few weeks back