May 3rd, 2023, 12:00 PM

The Pink Bag, the Pickpocket and the Police Station

By Kate Keathley
Kate Keathley clutching her replacement pink bag after a devastating theft. (Image credit: Hanna Richmond)
A recount of my first theft incident in Paris and how I handled it.

Theft. The unavoidable crime that anyone could be exposed to. Before December 2022 of last year I had never been a true victim of this crime. With experience traveling in main tourist areas I had always been aware of pickpockets or those fictitious characters that were supposedly out to grab all my belongings, stripping me bare. 

During my first semester at AUP I began to hear horror stories from other students being attacked and robbed while traveling on vacation. Knowing this I kept guard of my belongings in crowded places and always made sure my purse was closed tight when entering public transportation. One would think that this amount of awareness would keep me out of harm, but the attack happens always when you least expect it. 

Starting in November of last year I had the privilege of acting in a short film directed by my close friend and fellow AUP student Annika Lovgren. In the beginning of filming, the scenes were located in her student dorm. I could easily leave my bag and belongings, change into my costume and have no worries about the protection of my property. But as the film progressed and scenes started to be filmed outside, there were still no worries as we were all in a small neighborhood park protected by many friends who had volunteered to help.


Tunnel Vision by Annika Lovgren

Jump to 4:02 to watch moments after the theft happened.

As December came and the temperatures dropped, we were filming our last scenes. With the end in sight as well as final exams and Christmas break on the way, we were all eager to get the scenes down and finish shooting. The last scenes were located in a Saturday market right next to the Trocadero. This was to be the biggest, most important and most unpredictable scene to shoot. 

When I arrived I was given my costume and then promptly changed behind two random vans. I placed my belongings with the girl who was in charge of the bags and camera equipment. It was cold but the shoot was on my mind: this was by far the biggest scene we had to film. A lot of outside interaction was required and I had a few lines with the AUP French teacher Anne-Marie Picard, who I had never met before. 

The scene required me to browse through a selection of fruits, pick three mandarin oranges and accidentally leave my wallet behind at the booth. Once the wallet is left, Ms. Picard would realize my mistake, pick up my wallet and run after me to return it. We did the scene twice and were stopped with camera concerns. As I focused on making my movements most genuine I hear, “Wasn’t there a pink bag here?” 

I hear this and come out of my focus to realize that my bag was missing. I immediately take two steps closer and see my purse was still there but not my hot pink bag. I start to frantically look around for anyone walking with it. As one could imagine, everyone began to search in a frenzy for this hot pink bag.

I could feel the tears coming, but I knew that I still had my phone, purse and wallet. I didn’t know exactly what I was missing but I knew that I had the three most important things to my immediate need. I jerked my emotions to a halt.

“Why I am here?” I asked myself. My immediate answer? “To get the shot.” 

I demanded that my purse be held and that we continue to film. I knew that if it was gone now it would probably be gone forever. I also knew that I had an obligation to film the scene properly to my fullest ability. We filmed the final thanking moments between Ms. Picard and my character. As soon as we got the approval of the shot I felt happy and powerful. What I didn’t know was my adrenaline was still coursing through me.

With my purse in hand, I stood stunned, not knowing what to do. I thought about searching the neighboring streets to see if someone took the important stuff and threw the bag away. Then I started to think about all the items in my bag. 

I had planned to work on finals papers with a friend and go to a dance class after filming so I had school essentials as well as the clothes I changed out of. The list started adding up. My computer, a semesters worth of notes, stationary, an important hoodie, school journal and all costumes for the end of semester AUP dance showcase which included borrowed ballroom shoes. I soon realized that I lost everything to my academic and social name. 

For some reason, I still do not know why, Ms. Picard saw me rationalizing all the things I had lost and said, “You and I will go to the police station. Together.” 

We quickly approached some attractive police officers, told them what had happened and they instructed us to go the closest police station and make a report. Ms. Picard and I departed from the rest of the film crew and drove around the Trocadero area to find a police station. 

At the police station, there seemed to be no one around except for two officers. Ms. Picard spoke to them and they gave me a form to fill out. It was a basic form—in English—where I listed all the items that were taken. The film crew arrived for moral support and after waiting for around 30 minutes, Ms. Picard and I both went back to meet with an officer. 

It was the exact opposite of what I imagined a French police experience to be. This nice officer, with a gun at her hip, played YouTube compilations of male K-pop music videos. She smiled and spoke English to me. I became more interested in the music than in my lost items. After an hour of chatting we finally finished the paper work and I left with an insurance claim and a funny experience to tell everyone I knew. 

Kate Keathley and officer sharing their love for K-pop. Image credit: Kate Keathley.

I never did find my old backpack or my computer. But I did have a new found awareness of my belongings when in public and quickly replaced everything with the help from the insurance claim. I gained my first theft experience in Paris and a forever memory. The immediate kindness I received from Ms. Picard will go with me forever and I learned that sometimes in moments that seem like life or death, I just need to take a couple of breaths and put everything into perspective.