The Flipside 200 Outfoxes Seasoned Pickpockets in Barcelona

Flipside 200. © Lowepro

Flipside 200. © Lowepro

Editor’s note: Illustrator, cartoonist, humorist and newbie photographer Ron Tocknell of Gloucester, England purchased a Flipside 200 to use on a very recent trip to Barcelona, Spain. He is exploring photography as his “retirement indulgence” and we’re thrilled he’s carrying one of our camera backpacks to pursue this new passion.

A plain-clothes officer of the Guardia approached him as he shot scenes of a busy marketplace and, well…we’ll let Ron tell his story about the Flipside 200 outfoxing some shady characters.

“On November 6th I was in Boqueria market on the Ramblas in Barcelona, hemmed in on all sides by the jostling crowds while taking ‘crowd shots’ of my wife and daughter. I was using a Canon EOS REBEL 300D with an 80-200mm zoom lens. I was carrying another 50mm lens in my Lowepro Flipside 200, which I had purchased specifically in anticipation of this trip to ‘pickpocket central’. As it so happened, I had left behind the gear I wouldn’t be using and packed only the camera and two lenses, as I would be switching back and forth between the two throughout the day. As the camera and larger lens was in use, the only contents of my bag were the 50mm lens (which I bought for £30 on EBay) and a pair of socks.

Barcelona market with photographer's family. © Ron Tocknell

Barcelona market with photographer’s family © Ron Tocknell

After several minutes of happy snapping in the market, a man who turned out to be a plain-clothes officer of the Guardia policing the area for pickpockets – for which this particular market is notorious – tapped me on the shoulder. Supported by a uniformed officer, he drew me aside. What had I done? Nothing apparently. I was, he explained, the victim.

Several members of the public had noticed two men attempting to access the contents of my backpack as I moved through the crowd blissfully unaware of their attentions. The men were (to quote the witnesses who alerted the police) ‘fiddling with the seams and appeared to be looking for the zip’. The men were apprehended by the plain-clothes officer and arrested as I moved on, unaware of this little drama until the officer caught up with me.

As he sat with me at a cafe table and filled out the necessary forms, I was asked to check the contents of my bag to ensure that nothing had been taken and passed on to an accomplice. They were a little alarmed at the obvious emptiness of my bag until I explained that this was indeed all it had contained. I showed them the construction of the bag with its zip concealed between the shoulder straps and inaccessible when being worn.

Secure, body-side access. © Lowepro

Secure, body-side access. © Lowepro

I was told I was ‘lucky’ to have such a bag as the men they had arrested were notorious, serial offenders and very skillful at removing the contents of backpacks without the wearer being aware. They targeted camera bags because the contents are invariably valuable and usually remove the contents swiftly and pass them on to accomplices.

Example of fully packed interior. © Lowepro

Example of fully packed interior. © Lowepro

In this instance, the more they tried to locate a zip, the more determined they became to get into my bag and what would normally have been a swift and barely noticeable theft became a drawn out pantomime of these two seasoned pickpockets tenaciously working on my bag as I moved through the crowd. This dogged determination is what drew attention to them and ultimately resulted in their arrest.

The ironic and poetic punchline is that, had these ‘seasoned’ and ‘skillful’ pickpockets been less determined they would not have been arrested. Their downfall was their refusal to let any bag get the better of them in an attempted theft that, if successful, would have yielded… a £30 lens and a pair of socks!

Barcelona market scene. © Ron Tocknell

Barcelona market scene. © Ron Tocknell

I want to thank Lowepro not only for designing a bag that defeats the most skillful and determined pickpockets, but also for making what would have been a stressful (albeit fruitless for the thieves) theft into one of the funniest and most memorable events of my entire holiday.”

— Ron Tocknell

Many thanks to Ron for taking the time and effort to relate his tale. So glad it had a happy ending!

If you’d like to get more information on our Flipside and Flipside Sport secure, body-side access backpacks, see the entire collection.

Katrina Neill

About Katrina Neill

Katrina was the Senior Editor & Communications Manager for Lowepro.

One Comment

  • Ron Tocknell says:

    I had never before been the victim of a pickpocket and never had anything stolen from a backpack and it is very much in my nature to fall into the complacency of the ‘so-far-so-good’ mindset. I had spent a lot of money getting together some gear to explore photography and, when we decided to go to Barcelona, my priority was protecting my stuff for the flight. I wasn’t going to entrust my gear to baggage handlers so I looked for a bag I could pack everything into and take it as ‘carry-on’. The Flipside 200 was about the right size and the fact that it has the body-side access was an incidental plus. I never expected to become the victim of thieves.

    As it turned out, I had only packed my camera and an extra lens for the market trip as I didn’t want to be loaded down with stuff I wouldn’t use. I’d paddled in the Med earlier that day and, rather than put my socks back on, I stuffed them in my bag. Consequently, all my bag contained at the time was the extra lens… and my socks, as the camera was in use. Had this incident not occurred, I would not have felt moved to praise Lowepro for the brilliant security of the design. But there had been a number of occasions when I had all my gear in my bag in equally crowded environments. Had there been attempts to steal from my bag on any of those occasions? I would only have known about it if they succeeded in stealing anything. I was blissfully ignorant of this attempt until alerted by the police. Had the police not intervened, the thieves would have given up at some point and I would have returned home none the wiser that the Flipside had saved my lens… and my socks.

    What I COULD have lost would have banjaxed my plans for a stimulating retirement pursuing a hobby I’d always been drawn to but could never afford. I hadn’t insured my gear and could certainly not afford to replace it.

    I am grateful to the police… not for arresting the thieves (no doubt they’ll be back on the streets up to their old tricks soon enough)… but for alerting me to the fact that this bag had been protecting my equipment without me even realising it. Losing my equipment would not only have ruined my holiday but would have ruined my whole retirement.

    The body-side access is a very simple and ultimately brilliant design idea. I would like to see this on all backpacks, not just camera bags. This holiday could have ended very differently. The Lowepro Flipside 200 is by far the best investment I have ever made. Thank you so much!

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