Pickpocketing/crime poll

Jun 29th, 2001, 11:24 AM
  #1  
Capo
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Pickpocketing/crime poll

Inspired by "cc", who wrote, in the "Pickpocketed in Barcelona" thread, "We never see threads started by the hordes of travellers who HAVEN'T been pickpocketed in Europe, do we?", I thought I'd do just that in the hopes it may give all of us some perspective.

What's been your experience(s), if any, with crime in Europe? (Let's confine this to *personal* experiences, not things you saw or heard or read about.)

I've taken ten trips to Europe since 1979 -- ranging from four days to six weeks -- and here's my experiences:

. 1st trip: a guy had his hand in the daypack I was wearing on my back (I didn't know any better then) while I was boarding a London subway, and *almost* got my camera. Fortunately, I felt the tug, turned around and kicked at him, and he came up empty-handed.

. 4th trip: my girlfriend & I had rented a car in Provence. We parked it in a carpark in a small town in the Luberon (I forget the name) and, when we returned after an hour or so, it had been broken into. Fortunately, we had nothing in the trunk (we were just out for the day) or the passenger compartment so, again, they came up empty-handed.

That's the extent of it for me. And you?
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 11:57 AM
  #2  
marj
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been to europe 7 times, some visits were to more than 1 city (mostly the larger cities). Also been to asia 3 times. The closest i came to any form of crime was my last time in Rome, on a crowded tram with my family and all our luggage, what appeared to be gypsies were also on the tram. One seemed to have her eye on my backpack (which is difficult to get into, has flaps, clips, zippers). She was carrying a baby with a blanket around. Meanwhile her friend asked for my seat so she could sit and nurse her baby. I stood but was keeping an eye on the girl standing behind me with her baby. I saw what appeared to be her hand moving under the baby's blanket towards my backpack, i turned around and looked directly at her. at that point she and her friend got off at the next stop. That's it. I also live in NYC (since 1987), never had a problem.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 12:01 PM
  #3  
Thyra
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1st trip to Ireland in 1985, I was stupid and had cash in my purse, my purse unzipped and was standing in a packed fast food restaurant. When I got back to the hostel the money was gone, surprise, surprise...luckily I was able to call my parents and they wired me some money...
In Washington DC, while sitting on a bus, with the windows open, a bunch of guys ran by and grabbed a purse of my friends which she had placed on a little shelf behind her, (we were in the back of a school bus).
But that's it * Knock on wood. I've been to Europe 10 times now, my husband and I always take a money pouch....*double knock... but that's pretty darn good IMHO.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 12:14 PM
  #4  
Book Chick
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When I went to school in Italy, we had to "register" at a local police station & fill out some paperwork since we were going to be staying in Florence longer than most tourists do. On the way from the police station to the bus station, we were walking in small groups & some of the guys shouted out to a few of us women, "look out, turn around!". When we did, we saw a young gypsy boy, I'd estimate about 10 years old, smoking a cigarette. (I'm not making that up.) He shadowed our group all the way to the station (but knowing he was there, we clung to our purses) & he boarded the bus with us (I'd estimate we were probably a group of between 15-20 students). We all sat in the back of the bus, in the par where the seats face each other & then the whole back bench seat. Realizing he was outnumbered & would probably be seen by someone if he attempted anything, he disembarked at the first stop after boarding. (I still remember him so vividly because he was almost angelic-looking: bronzed skin, blue eyes & shiny dark blonde hair which hung in ringlets.)

BC
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 12:20 PM
  #5  
rand
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Waaaay back in '73 (I think) in Etheopia.
Walking with my mother a man approached diagonaly from the right (always suspicious because it means they have targeted you). He bent over and tugged at my pant leg, trying to push me off balance with his shoulder at stomach level while his hand went into my front pocket for my wallet. A really stupid ploy. He was rewarded with a hard right to the left kidney followed by a right knee to the chest. This left him lying on his back as we walked away.
Last September, standing at a bus stop about six blocks from Euston station (next museum) a couple crossed the road and approahed. He stopped in front of me and asked where Euston station was. This set off an alarm bell imediately. I turned around to find his girlfriend right behind me with her hands up by her chest. Visualize a dog begging. I said 'hello there' and smiled gotcha. She smiled the most sheepish smile I have ever seen. Yes I wear a daypack so you can guess her intentions.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 12:47 PM
  #6  
BobV
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My experience was in Paris. I'd visited Sacre Couer at night on the advice of a friend to see the city lights. Beautiful, but hardly a great place to be at night. It was my first time in Paris, so I wanted to see where the Moulin Rouge was. I hiked down there and couldn't believe the crowds. Tour buses. Tourists so thick you couldn't move. (I am returning in a few weeks to Paris, and I'm sure the crowds will be worse with the movie out.)

That was where I was targeted. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. Instinctively, I covered my wallet (thereby telling the pickpocket where it was). I turned and was face to face with a smiling young man (20s). He just smiled as if it were a misunderstanding.

Maybe 15 minutes later, as I climbed on the Metro, this man and another jumped on the train and ran through a silly routine in which one knelt down and grabbed my pants legs to hold them tight and make the pick easier, while the other tried to slip his hand into my pocket. I recognized what was happening, and, well, let's just say I thanked my martial arts teacher when I got home for what happened next. They got no money, but they did get a, uh, spanking, so to speak. I felt bad about the physical violence until the next day on the Metro when I watched a French woman severely purse-whip a guy who simply jumped the turnstile.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 01:17 PM
  #7  
Lori
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With about 18 trips to Europe I can honestly say we have never had any problems at all with crime...ever. Just use common sense, blend in and act like you know what you are doing and where you are going. People who leave cars unlocked, walk in crowded areas with backbacks, etc. are looking for trouble. A little common sense goes a long way. Simply being aware of your surroundings (and belongings) at all times is important. Many people just get lax on vacation and let their guard up, then they become statistics. I use the same street smarts in Paris or where ever that I use in cities in the U.S. No place is devoid of criminals and/or crime however.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 01:23 PM
  #8  
elvira
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Dozens of trips to Europe:
1) 10 years ago, Paris, had a pair of gloves and my Paris par Arrondissement in a coat pocket. In the Tati near Montmartre, the book disappeared. I am still pissed.
2) Milan, 4 of us heading toward the Last Supper, when we were accosted by the "baby" toting thieves. 3 of us had our bags under our buttoned coats, but one woman had her bag out (zippers, flaps, clasps - and clenched between elbow and hip) and the two thieves actually PUT THEIR HANDS ON HER TO GET AT HER BAG. I grabbed them and threw them off, screaming obscenities at the top of my lungs and in their faces. Don't ever touch me, or anyone I'm with.
3) Girls in Paris, at the top of the metro up escalator, man stops so that one of our girls has no way to get off - and he reaches around to her fanny pack and unzips it. She fortunately had enough presence of mind to shove him very hard and step onto the landing.

In the first case, I think it was just opportunity; in the latter two, it was definitely aimed at tourists (3 platinum blondes and a redhead in Milan kinda stood out, especially as we were heading toward the Last Supper; fanny pack definitely a dead giveaway).
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 01:25 PM
  #9  
Robin
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I have never been the victim of theft in Europe. But I had a really odd experience in France last year. To this day I don't know if this guy was the savior or the con man or what!

Four of us had boarded a train in Paris. Belatedly we remembered that we had not had our tickets validated, so I took all four and went back. Naturally, I was rushing along, intent on my business. As I returned to the train, this man approached me somewhat urgently and said some thing like "Madame, madame, your bag" (in English). I glanced down at it, it seemed to be fine, so I kept walking. He followed me and tried to say something further, but I didn't understand his message, and I wasn't inclined to stop. I said something in response, basically brushing him off. After I returned to my compartment with my friends he actually followed me in, and said he was with the police, although he wore no uniform, and he waved a bit of yellow police tape as if it were ID! He said that he had seen someone reach in my bag, and he wanted me to open it to see if anything was gone. Since I was finally back with my friends I did stop and look, and nothing was missing. So was he really an undercover policeman who thought he had seen a crime? Or was he hoping to get me to open my purse when I was alone on the platform, so he could grab a wallet? Neither one quite fits, but that's my experience of "crime" in Europe!

Now in Israel I had an interesting experience observing a young man reaching in someone else's purse in a crowd. (The woman was part of a group I was with.) I walked over and grabbed his wrist and pulled it out, and, lucky for me, he just slinked away. Not too bright in retrospect!
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 01:29 PM
  #10  
Linda
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I am an American who lived in Europe for over 12 years. I did LOTS of travelling and NEVER was pickpocketed or mugged. Lost my wallet one time, but that was my fault. I lost it, it wasn't stolen. And my house was broken into once, but that is another story unrelated to this thread. I don't know if I'm incredibly lucky or not, but, with a little bit of care I've had no problems not of my own causation.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 01:38 PM
  #11  
elaine
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About 15+ trips,England, France, Italy, Greece, Korea,mostly cities,some trips solo, some duets, using trains, planes, metros, etc: never been a crime victim, not even close, never even seen a pickpocket (guess they're not wearing their i.d. badges when I'm there) nor any of the infamous gypsies. Have never used any special security belts or hidden wallets, just carry a zippered tote bag that is over my shoulder and close to my body, with my hand on it.
For the first time though I am considering for my upcoming solo Rome trip segment using a hidden wallet of some kind,haven't decided yet.
Just to show how much I live a charmed life, I live in NYC and I've never been a crime victim here either, not even when times was bad.

I keep thinking however that I'm WAY overdue...
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 01:39 PM
  #12  
Sheila
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I assume we Europeans are not excluded?

I take between one and three holidays in Europe every year and have never been the victim of crime. Ever.

At home, now, that's a different story
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 01:49 PM
  #13  
Cindy
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Total of 12 weeks of travel in London, France, Spain, Germany and Italy. Never had a problem.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 01:59 PM
  #14  
Gerry K
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To foil those pesky pickpockets on my recent trip to Amsterdam and London, I purchased some "decoy" wallets for a dollar each from a local Adirondack leather maker. I couldn't wait to get pickpocketed. Wouldn't you know, nothing happened.

You just can't win.

Cheers,

Gerry K
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 06:06 PM
  #15  
Joyce
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We were certainly on-guard during our recent trip to Italy, but the only "thief" we saw was a young girl who tried to swipe my french fries while I was standing at a counter at the McDonald's in Rome train station. I was so desparate for junk food by then that I think I scared HER half to death. I know, that's what I get for eating at a McDonald's!!!!!
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 06:15 PM
  #16  
Amy
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In a couple dozen trips to Europe, no problems except once in Rome when some kids tried the ol' thrust the newspaper in the face and get the handbag from underneath trick on one of my travel companions. I yelled at the kids and they seemed to understand my meaning pretty well!
(Here, there've been a couple purse snatchings and one experience where a guy walked off with my handbag from the shop I was working in while two women decoyed, but that I got back. And, of course, this has been over many, many years of city life.)
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 06:44 PM
  #17  
Ron
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I have travelled extensively in Europe, dozens of trips in all. Throughout UK, Italy, Spain, Paris, Germany, and others. Never a problem, although I make it a habit to carry my wallet in front pants pocket.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 07:04 PM
  #18  
mimi taylor
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It is true about the gypsies with babies and blanket, but we have that kind of thing even here in Boston. So-now, for the positive side. A friend and I dined at THE VERT GALLENT in Paris. My friend left his camera behind. Ours later, he realized he had been careless, we returned to the V.G., and had his camera back. The bad things usually happen in the bigger places, and the gypsies are a big problem there. I saw a sweet dog wearing a jean jacket sitting on an organ, I took a picture, out of nowhere this young gypsy girl said you took a picture now you must pay. So I did and gave her a centime which she than threw back at me, people at the cafes clapped because she had been pulling this with any tourist and they gave in. But there have been so many acts of kindness I could also tell you about.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 07:16 PM
  #19  
dan woodlief
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I have never been the victim of crime in Europe. However, a travel companion had things taken from her bag. Amazingly, when she went to the authorities, someone had turned in her passport, but her credit cards were gone. This was in Budapest. My wife and I had a guy following us suspiciously from the Montparnasse station late one night in Paris. When my wife made a comment about it, he made some garbled remark and went off somewhere else. I am very careful with my possessions - front pocket for the wallet, hands on items in crowded places, but so far no serious attempts to steal from me.
 
Jun 30th, 2001, 12:17 AM
  #20  
AnnaC
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Well, I live in London and have never had any problems there, but then maybe I'm less of a target as fairly obviously not a tourist. I've never had any problems on any of my trips in Western Europe - France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Holland. I did once have my wallet stolen out of my bag in Prague, though. No-one tried to use my credit cards, they were just after the cash, but the hassle of cancelling my cards and (awful memory) reporting the theft to the Czech police so that I could claim on the insurance did put something of a dampener on the weekend.
 

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