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Beware of Pickpockets in Paris

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A warning to all travelers to Paris, pickpocket thievery is on the rise!

One Parisian family member (my wife is French) told us that the problem is apparently so widespread that the authorities have a sting unit dedicated to catching them.

In our last three visits we have seen, been the attempted targets of, and been the successful targets of pickpockets in Paris.

Eight years ago, while on the metro, we watched a little old Parisian lady beat a pickpocket into submission with her umbrella. The target was an Asian woman who's purse was hanging to her side.

Four years ago, when we were there as part of a large family group, I spotted someone getting off the metro who had just entered ahead of me, but behind my mother. Quickly I got my brother-in-law to hold the train doors while I blocked the pickpocket’s path just outside the train. I then yelled to my mother to check her belongings. Her wallet was gone! The thief, a pretty teenage girl, dropped the wallet! In this case I was super paranoid, because the girl was part of a group of teens that had been entering the station behind us. They were acting obnoxiously, running up and down the halls behind us and yelling and shouting.

Finally, just last week, my wife had her wallet taken out of the back pocket of her backpack while at Montmartre. She was off shopping on her own and someone must have spotted her lamely put it in there. Two hours later she noticed it was gone. The damage: $500 cash and $1,200 in purchases on her ATM/Credit Card!

Also last week, I am positive that I thwarted two guys from taking my wallet on the Bateaux-Mouche. Near the end of the ride, they came up where we were sitting. One sat behind me while the other sat to my right side. I was literally cornered against the left side of the boat. They were normal looking late teens dressed as tourists, but were very intrusive into my space. The one sitting behind me kept leaning up over the seat next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I could clearly see him glancing down the back of my seat toward my wallet while talking to his buddy. I stuck my thumb into my back pocket, looping it over my wallet to protect it. When that didn't make them give up, I stood, facing them and looking at each in the eyes and walked sideways to the aisle way. They left for the back of the boat 2 seconds later.

From what I have seen, there are two types of pickpockets, the calm silent thieves who sneak up and go for your belongings without you knowing it, i.e. the one beaten by the umbrella and the one who took my wife's wallet. Then there are the ones who create a diversion through strange actions that try to get you to drop your guard through sensory overload.

Fortunately, it is my view that most pickpockets are physically harmless because they have to blend into the crowd. That being said, the two guys on the boat had me quite nervous for my safety. I was quite concerned that they would be more aggresive as we got closer to docking.

However, both types can be thwarted through vigilance. Keep your belongings safely stowed on you body and keep an eye out for strange and obnoxious behavior. Finally, if it is at all possible, travel in groups, with each person keeping an eye out for the belongings of the others.

Enjoy your visit to Paris. Just be on guard!

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