Then yesterday, an expensive camera was stolen from my school. An office was left unattended for a couple of minutes and, when the secretary returned, the camera had been stolen from an unlocked drawer. With hundreds of parents milling around, not to mention students and staff, it's hard to know where to start looking.
And then today, as I waited for my bus, I thought I recognised a "certain lad carrying a large flat bag". I watched him for a few minutes to be sure, as he joined the back of a queue for the bus, furtively looking at people's bags and pockets as he did so. As the last passengers got on the bus he quickly stepped back, not boarding the bus after all. It WAS him. I started pointing at him and shouting, "Xiǎo tōu (thief)! He's a thief! Watch out. THIEF!!" He gave me a snarl, but quickly walked away. A few seconds later, another guy asked me in Chinese, "Was he a thief?". I was about to say yes, when I noticed he was carrying an identical bag and then realised he'd been talking to the first guy a few minutes before. "You're a thief too," I shouted, "He's a thief too everybody. Watch out! ANOTHER THIEF!!". At this point he did a runner too. The odd thing was that none of the hundred or so Chinese standing around did anything. Odd, that is, until I was later told that the pickpockets usually carry blades to slice the bottom of bags (...or, indeed, heroic busybodies). I'll think twice next time.