The annual Cross Christmas Choral and Parade was ready to start; and, all available police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and State Investigative Bureau detectives were working the route. For the last few weeks, a pickpocket had plagued our county. Not your normal, run-of-the-mill pickpocket; this one defied capture. Not one victim could recall having seen, felt, or heard anything.
LEOs worked all the seasonal events-craft fairs, regattas, tree lightings, Black Friday sales, you name it. Everyone came up blind, no more observant than your average citizen did; The Police were no better off than before. We held a discussion about the possibility of a gang of pickpockets: that idea had died. One invisible, undetectable, nimble, and a prolific pickpocket might work out of an area; but, several pickpockets of that caliber would not be wasting their time in the boonies. A gang that talented would work New York, LA, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, or some other large town with real money.
The thief was patient and smart. He had used not a single stolen credit card; and, he had made no unexplained large cash purchases in either our county or any adjacent counties. Residents were getting scared to go shopping. He had hurt no one; there was no need. The thief took wallets or unattended purses without incident. There had seldom been so much as an outcry at the time of the offence. With well over a hundred victims, we were no closer to finding the culprit than we were after the first.
It was a puzzling crime spree going full speed with no arrests in sight. Heck, thanks to a grant after the last hurricane, each law enforcement organization in the state had at least one K9; even those trained dogs could not pick up a scent to follow. All K9s available across the state were working this event. Maybe this would be the day that culminated in the end of pickpocket crime in our county.
I am Joe Crabtree, Chief of Police in Cross County. I am the son of a law enforcement officer, the brother of a law enforcement officer, and I am married to a law enforcement officer. We were all working today, into the night. The Cross Christmas Choral and Parade was an all day and into late evening event in our county. Family and tourists celebrated this annual tradition for over a hundred years. People came from all over the state to enjoy our sixteen hour celebration of the season. It was not just from all over the state, either; out-of-state relatives and visitors came just to enjoy our Season’s Greetings. It was a big deal for the whole state, not just our town.
The parade started at noon; and, both uniformed and plain clothed LEOs would work the crowd from one end of the route to the other. There were over 50 K9 officers patrolling, all hoping to catch the elusive pickpocket.
Fifteen minutes into the parade there was a shout near the reviewing stand. I looked on as people begin to move around; and, the shouting became purpose driven and loud. There were many law enforcement officers milling around, looking in every direction, and shouting into their radios. I was not hearing any helpful radio chatter; but, I was headed in the general direction of the disturbance. Our town K9 unit headed my way at a fast clip. I decided to keep my eyes open and wait to learn what direction he was working. The K9 headed in my direction; but, I located no suspect running or acting suspicious. I kept glancing around and back to the K9, hoping to spot someone who acting peculiar. There was nothing coming except a big Golden Retriever wearing a K9 vest loping down the parade route. Meanwhile, at the original site, a knot of officers were still milling around and shouting. None of this made any sense. That is when I realized our K9 was not accompanied by her handler. I started moving towards her to grab her lead. K9s are never supposed to be off lead unless bringing down an attacker.
Goldie came toward me fast; and, I stepped to intercept the dog. The dog dodged me; but, I leaped to grab her lead. It proved a good thing I did! I caught the pickpocket. We caught a dirty cop.
Our most skilled pickpocket was a trusted, uniformed member of our county’s law enforcement. I did not believe my own two eyes. Goldie, our decorated and prized K9, headed my way, nonchalantly carrying two wallets and a purse in her mouth. Now it all made perfect sense. No one suspects a dog, especially one wearing a K9 uniform vest. When someone realizes their wallet or purse is missing, they look person-high not dog-low.
I did not take the wallets and purse from Goldie; instead, I radioed for all officers to be on the lookout and follow Goldie. I then dropped her lead. Goldie took off at her fast lope with half the law enforcement in five counties hot on her heels. The world’s greatest pickpocket led us to her stash. Goldie dug under the shed that sided up to her pen; we found a large, deep hole. Thank goodness it was dry, due to being under a county shed. All the wallets and purses were there, intact. Each person victimized would get their items back before Christmas; but, I needed to find out why a dog would pick pockets.
Goldie had a past; but, no one knew about it. She came from an animal rescue, as did most K9 units. A little investigating uncovered a human thief. Goldie’s owner turned her in to the Humane Society prior to him going to jail on a minor charge. It turns out he was the person who taught Goldie to work a crowd and pick pockets. She would bring the items back to her owner. A minor, unrelated charge caused him to be arrested; but, after we got a search warrant, detectives found wallets and purses stolen by Goldie and hidden in her criminal owner’s basement. That minor charge that sent him to jail turned into a major charge that kept him there.
Poor Goldie had to be re-homed again. Since k9 training is expensive, we gave her to a military unit, conditional upon Goldie being denied access to crowds; after all, she was the World’s Greatest Pickpocket.