Thought I would share a story of an attempted pickpocketing in Paris involving what I think was a training exercise.
I was on the Metro. At the Concorde station two young girls (12-14) got on accompanied by an adult man (about 40). I was close to the door, and after it closed I was standing up with the adult man in front of me and the girls in between me and the door.
I am hyper-vigilent, to the point that I enjoy finding pickpockets in crowds. As soon as the girls and man got on I recognized the tell-tale signs (they look like... ahem... well... gypsies. More importantly, look for thrift store looking clothes and large "flat"purses).
After the door closed I felt a gentle tug in my pocket, I looked down and one of the girls had positioned her purse over my pocket (my pockets are all empty, I use a neck wallet). I looked right at her and smiled, she immediately pulled back. At the next stop a few seconds later the girls got off leaving the man next to me. The girls got back in the same car but in the door behind me. As soon as we got underway an older man (also American) had grabbed on by the scruff of her neck and was yelling at her for trying to steal from him. He was shaking her and yelling. None of the Paris people on the train even really looked up or acknowledged the situation (that part was surprising, here in America everyone would be glued to the drama). The adult man with them who was still next to me didn't move and got a very anxious look on his face. He didn't take his eyes off the girls. I felt that if necessary he would have physically intervened. At the next stop they all three got off and disappeared.
My impression from this was that the girl was probably being trained on how to pickpocket, and wasn't "smooth" yet.