Before I begin telling my story, I have to write out a timeline of what happened just prior to what happened, so you have a clear idea why it happened:
May 18, 2013 -- I became a cop for the Pine Valley Police Department.
March 22, 2015 -- Pine Valley PD started new, updated trainings on pickpocketing in the 21st century, which was needed because the last one showed Walkmans and bundles of cash wrapped in scrunchies.
September 9, 2015 -- Kevin, my ex boyfriend and longest lasting relationship, dumped me after finding out about my excessive gambling. He could not believe that a short, feminine police officer could have such “manly habits”. His deep voice shouting “We're through, Emma! Good luck with your drinking and gambling!” and his shadow leaving before a slam of the door was not as hurtful as the realization that I was on a downward spiral with booze and money.
January 30, 2016 -- the day that I used my knowledge from the pickpocketing training for the first time.
Before anyone thinks of how I, Emma Jane Howard, may have saved the cold January day by arresting a thief, I want to stop you right there. I did not use my police knowledge to catch a criminal. I used my police knowledge to become a criminal, and how to not get caught by my colleagues or by police officers in America and anywhere else my new knowledge took me. I started a count of countries where I succeeded, and that made me feel like a victorious villain: America, Great Britain, New Zealand, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, and so on. Spin a globe with your eyes closed and point to a random country, and open your eyes. I was probably there. I never would have guessed that I would become a globetrotter funded by criminality. Thousands of dollars, euros, pounds, and other currencies gave me a great, twisted feeling that nothing else in life ever gave me a glimpse of.
I did not know that Ireland would be the country to ruin all of the money and progress I had made. Karma came for me on my 27th birthday this year, in 2019, in Belfast. It did not help when multiple cards with multiple names, quite a few wallets, and over a thousand euros in cash were found on me and in my purse when I was arrested. What was at first a way to get through a month’s worth of groceries, quickly became somewhat of an addiction. And better yet, I could use my new found “addiction” to fund my other addictions (gambling mainly, and drinking secondly) and still live comfortably. I would end up living in luxury and I could have stopped, but I knew I would miss pickpocketing. In the split second that I would pickpocket, I felt power, passion, and adrenaline. I lost all empathy and I admit that I became a cold-hearted person. I did not like who I became, but the ride on the way was a thrill that I am unsure if I regret. I will always admit though, that my behavior became sickening. After awhile, it simply was not enough to steal on the streets or in a store. I turned to pulling over unsuspecting people on the road while driving my cop car, stealing from crime scenes, and waking up before whoever my one stand of the week was to steal cash, cards, and their wallets. To seem as oblivious as my victims, I would pretend to help investigate the thefts if my victims noticed they were robbed, and I would call colleagues to help out with the investigations. Or I would steal at work by waiting until an investigation was closed and grab what I wanted from the scene of investigation or from the evidence lab. One of the few times of “you might just be a huge asshole, Emma” came when I stole money from what was left untouched after a house fire. That was not one of my proudest moments.
That cold January day in 2016, when I pickpocketed for the first time, took a lot of convincing myself to make happen. Two weeks prior, I thought of the idea after Officer Owens made a joke at his retirement party about something he remembered from one of those outdated “how to spot pickpocketing” videos from the 80s and how he’s so old. Everyone laughed at that while I downed another glass of wine in the back of the room. How I came to the conclusion of testing out being a thief, I am unsure. Maybe it was the expensive liquor that night at that pathetic excuse of a party. I went home and remembered that I had the newest addition of the “how to spot a pickpocketer” training video set somewhere on my computer. I watched it for the first time attentively, despite being really intoxicated and vomiting for over half of its duration. The next morning, I watched it again. And then again, and again. Within only two weeks, I had watched that whole damn training almost fifty times. I wanted to be the perfect pickpocket, and I really would become that way.
That first incident happened to be on the coldest day that our town had in six years. I intended to risk frostbite for the perfect reason: the few people out would be wearing coats and many layers, making it easier for a rookie pickpocket like me to snatch a wallet or a few bucks from a pocket on a coat or from the back pocket of some poor bastard’s jeans. I saw it as more of a training than a huge deal, because I knew more “practice” was to come. I had no idea that I would “practice” as much as I did. When I stepped outside late that morning, the streets were empty and I knew I would be lucky to find anyone outside their homes. I began driving around, probably looking suspicious. After twenty minutes, I almost gave up and settled on not pickpocketing at all. I decided to take a lunch break at the most popular Chinese restaurant in town, only a few minutes away from where I was. Only a few people were there, I had never seen the place not busy. One of the diners happened to be one of the wealthiest people in town, Marsha Walton. Her husband is a "self-made" millionaire and for some reason the Waltons moved to my lousy area, probably so they could flaunt. I felt like she was a deserving target. In her mind, losing a bit of money would be like losing a piece of candy. At my table, I watched her every move as sneaky as possible. While waiting for my food, she paid for her meal and gave a lousy tip after being rude to the teenage waiter. I thought he was going to cry at one point, the poor guy. She then walked to the ladies’ room and I knew the time was perfect. I had to go for it right then, it was the ultimate now or never moment. I waited twenty seconds after she entered the women’s bathroom, grabbed my purse, and then went for my prey. Her and I were the only women inside. I waited by the sinks and as soon as she flushed the toilet and came out, I turned on a sink and pretended to wash my hands. Fortunately, she dropped her purse on the floor next to her before washing her hands. I pretended to drop my lipstick but had second thoughts when I was moving to reach for it. The anxiety was overwhelming but I went for it. I knew I had ten, maybe fifteen seconds, and I managed to take out her wallet along with a huge, unexpected wad of cash. When I stood up, I knew she hadn't noticed anything. I quickly exited the bathroom and went back to my table. I felt a type of rush that gambling and alcohol had never given me. Right after I returned to my table, my meal came and it was honestly the most satisfying food I have ever eaten. I felt so overjoyed and I was already thinking of what I could have done or what I should not have done. You know, mental notes for whenever the next time would be. When it was time to pay, I looked at the bundle of cash and thought, “How is anyone stupid enough to leave a couple thousand dollars in their purse?” I paid my waiter with a fifty from my own wallet, the same teenage one that my “victim” had. My total was less than twenty dollars, but I told him to keep the change as a tip. He was confused. I whispered to him, “The lady before, I saw her treatment towards you. I can’t believe how people treat hard workers, especially respectful teenagers having to spend their snow days at work. I know she only gave you a couple bucks in tip, so see this as apart of hers. Don’t tell your boss, okay? I don’t want you to get in trouble.” He was probably as happy as I was when I stole from Marsha. He thanked me and I left feeling like I did my good deed for the day, even though I had just become a thief. Before going home, I went into a grocery store and clothing stores. I spent only a hundred of Marsha’s cash. Knowing I had almost two thousand in cash left was a nice feeling, as anyone else would feel. I was pleasantly surprised when I was assigned to Marsha’s report of a “nasty, ferocious burglary”. I sighed a huge sigh of relief when she didn't remember what the “hand washing gal” looked like while she was retracing her steps for me. Over the following two months, I accumulated thousands more in cash alone. I have a count of monthly income from my crime spree laying around somewhere in my apartment. The cold weather helped me with it all, it was useful practice. Unfortunately, the weather became really warm way too soon. Early May was like hell on Earth. It was too risky to do anything in the area, so I had a crazy idea: travel to somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. And I did, I left the US for the first time for a spontaneous vacation in New Zealand. My rush was now traveling worldwide. I accumulated a lot in that time from tourist spots and coats or bags on beaches and spread out my currency conversion period over the next few months, as I would with all of my international earnings. I hopped over to Australia a day after I saw a picture of Melbourne. Despite the excitement and wonderful times, I was nervous because the trips were a lot more expensive than I hoped. I would not truly enjoy those two countries without worries until later on, and I loved it so much that I thought I would move to one of them someday.
My life became extravagant after that. My job paid me really well, and I was almost always assigned to solve the crimes I myself had committed. I was quickly back on my feet, and I used my increasing wealth to my advantage. While the money increased rapidly, the amount of self respect I had decreased with it. It was not like I was completely okay by stealing from those who did not deserve it, but the feeling and thrill all of it gave me was what fueled the pickpocketing. I moved to a nice loft and was a well-to-do gambler, alcoholic and thief instead of a poor alcoholic and gambler. After more globe trotting and time off, I decided to “take an indefinite leave of absence” from being a police officer. And I did, an indefinite leave that may last for a long time.
One of my favorite days was when I bumped into my ex Kevin while waiting for my luggage at JFK airport in New York City after coming back from a long stay in various parts of Asia for my birthday in February 2017.
“Wow, Emma, you seem to be doing well.” Kevin looked surprised, but maybe more confused, from the second I waved at him. I imagine that seeing your ex in designer clothing and looking happy, not even a year and a half after you dumped her due to her bad habits with money, would be quite shocking. Even more surprising to him was probably all the checked luggage I left with. He seemed impressed with my life “improvement”, and I loved it. His facial expression was energizing and his pathetic tone of voice was music to my ears. We went back to Pine Valley together and talked about everything but our former relationship and the past. It was my first pleasant encounter with him in almost two years. For me personally, the best part was the one night stand that night. That night was the first incident of stealing from one night stand victims I had. No one was safe from me. Purses, pockets, coats, backpacks, and just people in general. Those targets were always no match for pickpocket Emma Howard. My favorite target, however, were pockets. Pockets are almost always on humans, and being that close to being discovered without being caught was different to me. It was adrenaline pumping. It often felt like more of a high than the stealing.
I decided to move to New York City in April 2018. The decision came while I was staring out at the Eiffel Tower from a Paris hotel room window. I loved everything about big cities and I loved how much easier it was to steal in busier areas. I moved into an upscale Manhattan apartment and continued my crime spree. I was was more than a pro by then. Over the next ten months, I was stuck in this exhausting, yet exhilarating cycle: go far away, come back and plan out where to go next. I took a couple months off from travel until right before my birthday of 2019, this year. I decided to go to Ireland, because why not? As soon as I arrived there, I enjoyed everything about Belfast. I had a good streak of stealing there, with no problems. I spent my birthday alone, for the third year in a row. I didn’t care at the time, but I wondered if I was starting to regret the last few years. The following day, I woke up with a bad hangover and wanted to get the rush done with for the day. Then I was caught at 11am. The evidence was overwhelming so I was barely interviewed, they immediately decided to board me on a flight back to New York to be interviewed in America. The soonest flight was from Dublin. It feels impossible to recollect how my commute to Dublin’s airport was. My memory starts to improve when I think about meeting the Irish cop who led me to the plane. I remember boarding the flight with American law enforcement and looking out the window at my surroundings. I knew it could be the last time I travel as far as Ireland. It really hit me then that I screwed myself, I was ashamed at how badly I was pickpocketing when got arrested. My sleep on the plane felt quick. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, I was back here in America. It was like how the last few years were. They were almost completely a blank chunk of time, I could only clearly remember pickpocketing. My sister’s wedding, other weddings, three funerals, retirements, a couple of baby showers, holidays, and other milestone memories were stored away in an area of my brain that I was unable to find. I worry everyday that those moments will never be found and I really think they are a blank because I was not there, or because I was too busy drinking and stealing at them. Getting off the plane and into the cop car really put my future into perspective. And then I got here, to talk to you.
“You seem to be quite a storyteller.” Detective Peterson, appeared to feel very relieved that I stopped talking. “That’s quite a story there, miss. Quite long. We may not need to do any follow up interviews with you, because you were thorough. Maybe a bit too thorough.” I knew he did not expect that long of a story from me. Although I gave them practically everything they would need, they had to have been bored. I have always been told that I am a little dramatic, and a talker.
The other detective, Detective Andrews, continued for his colleague, who stood up to stretch. “Anything else you want to add?” As much as they did not want it, I think they expected me to talk more. I did not though, I had nothing else to say. “Good. Then we will--”
A last minute thought, however, came to mind. “Actually,” I looked into their eyes and said quietly, “I don’t regret a thing.”