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Why we're loving: Richard Young

Campaign loves Richard Young, magician. Here's why.

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WHAT HE DID

Young, a former pickpocket, teamed up with Crimestoppers and OgilvyOne to carry out “putpocketing” – sneaking cards shaped like tablets, wallets and smartphones into people’s bags and pockets to warn the public about pickpockets.

How did you get involved in the campaign? Crimestoppers got in touch with my friend, a magician called Rob James. He thought my experience as a former pickpocket would be useful. We had to get permission to carry out the activity and have a police presence in case anyone thought we were genuinely trying to steal from people.

What happened on the day? The first day was in a market in Bristol. We worked with a production company to film it. For the iPad-sized cards, Rob and I worked together: I would distract people by asking for directions while Rob would slip something into their rucksack. No-one caught us.

When were you a pickpocket? I was very interested in magic when I was a kid. The techniques of a pickpocket are similar to a magician’s – sleight of hand, misdirection. I grew up in a dodgy part of the world and had an opportunity to integrate with a group of pickpockets when I was 13. There were six of us who worked together; they were all older.

It’s not as glamorous as people think it is. It’s often just grabbing and running away with stuff.

My mum and dad brought me up well. I justified my behaviour by thinking it was research for being a magician. But when the group was given a caution from the police, I decided to stop. We all did stupid things when we were teenagers, but I really regret it. Now I try to help people by educating them on how pickpockets work.

How do pickpockets work? You watch where people buy things – a burger van, a market stall – to see where they put their wallet. The idea that pickpockets target train stations is a myth. They tend to go for somewhere where people are relaxing, where their guard is down.  

How can people avoid becoming a victim? Men should not put their wallets in their back pockets. It’s so easy to steal them – I could teach someone to do it in five minutes. Women should carry a bag with a shorter strap and keep the bag between their body and arm. Don’t let it hang behind you. And keep it zipped up.

What do you do now? I make a living as a magician as part of a double act called Young & Strange. We play at the Edinburgh Festival every year, and do a stage show and corporate events.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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