Watch your stuff.

Not advocating paranoia here, but while you’re out in the kroeg having a good time, spare a thought for ‘where’s my stuff?’ Same goes for when you’re boarding a tram or train. As in any thickly-populated city, take the usual precautions against letting your handbag, wallet, phone or passport get lifted.

We do have homegrown thieves living here. But we also have professional pickpockets who journey a long way to Amsterdam in search of fortune. They often work in teams, with some providing distraction while others do the lifting. They might cause some unusual shuffling around the door of a train, instigate a momentary disturbance in the street, or take the opportunity of a crowd watching a performance in a square or at a festival.

Here’s what happened recently to a bar-owner friend of mine. Toward closing time, he and a few regulars were sitting at the bar, when suddenly a handful of jubilant guys came in the door swinging a big bottle of liquor, promising everyone a free drink, while quickly spreading themselves out across the room. The owner — seeing something wrong with this picture, but not knowing quite what — rose from his chair and calmly urged these guys to leave, cuz the bar was closing. The intruders were oddly compliant and just went away. The bar owner got back to his chair, finished his drink — and noticed his wallet was missing from his jacket.

The play had been to cause a diversion that would briefly separate one man from his valuables, just long enough for the quiet, inconspicuous teammate to do his thing. Variations on this play can occur anytime. You can’t predict what the routine will be — only that it will most likely happen when you’re not on your guard.

So maybe the wise strategy is: whenever anything extraordinary occurs near you, just put one hand on your wallet or handbag.

I’m not trying to say this thievery happens all the time. On the contrary. That it happens rarely is why it works at all. If getting your shit ripped off was an everyday occurrence, people would be constantly vigilant and the effort wouldn’t be as profitable. The fact is that most of the time, you can safely leave your handbag hanging on your chair while you’re facing away from it, or leave your jacket here with your wallet in it while you go have a pee. It’s just that one time, when somebody walks off with your ID, phone and cards, that will be a memorably bad time. So when you go out, just be sensible about where your stuff is.