This is one of those lines (such as the 'whale blubber Wilde' at the end of Cemetry Gates) that someone has misheard, typed up on the internet, and has spread so much that annoyingly everyone now thinks it's what he's singing. It isn't. He's clearly singing "Standing around the shops with peas". Yes, it's a ridiculous line, but stick on some headphones and listen to that part at high volume, and you can clearly hear the 'p' articulated at the beginning of the word - there is no way it can be 'thieves'.Or standing around the shops with thieves
If you need more supporting evidence, listen to the live versions. He either sings peas, or sometimes changes it to "standing around the shops with chips", which is a fairly natural substitution (for all your foreigners, us British folk frequently eat chips and peas, usually of the mushy variety). For him to change 'thieves' to 'chips' would be incredibly random word substitution.
Please stop spreading these lyrical errors - they are maddening!