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Shane Nov 16th, 1999 08:49 AM

Just back from Italy and wanted to share some thoughts on what was a huge problem in Rome, Venice and Florence - pickpockets. Traveling with another couple (we are all early 30's and from NYC)we underestimated the threat of this crime. Luckily, we did not get robbed because of precautions/luck but we were targeted at least a half a dozen times. Here are some observations/ tips that may help: <BR>- In Rome the pickpockets were mainly very young women. We were attacked within minutes of leaving the train station while walking to our hotel. They work in very large groups and have it down to a science. They come at you very quickly in waves, the first group come at you furiously scanning your body for where wallets, cameras, etc... are located, the next wave comes in with babies and/or newspapers held out to distract you and finlly the last wave comes and rifles through your pockets. It happens fast and leaves you a bit shaken. <BR>In Florence, they seemed to be mainly younger boys. They hang around the tourist attractions and once your marked they follow you and wait for the right moment to move in. <BR>In Venice, they seemed to be teeneage boys and girls and were mainly seen in the shopping areas. They approached people with maps or guidebooks asking "tourist" type questions. <BR>Here is what I suggest: <BR>- Keep your eyes open and be aware of your surrondings. They travel in large groups and you can usually spot them and change your course. <BR>- Avoid walking on the park/tree side of the street near the terminals. They use the park to hide in. <BR>- Walk with a purpose, even if you are lost. They can pick up your a tourist if you seem to hesitate. If you are lost wait until you find a secure spot before opening the map. I would suggest using the small laminated city maps instead of those big giant paper maps. I would also read the map BEFORE you go out so you have a general idea of where you are heading. <BR>- Keep your wallet in a secure spot. We kept ours in front pant pockets and left shirts untucked. We also cleaned our wallets out of extra crap BEFORE we left. The thinner the better - less bulges. We laughed when my mother told us to saftey pin our front pockets - we didn't think it was so dumb after our first run in. <BR>- Don't take the subway to tourist attractions during rush hour. The trains are mobbed and when the train pulls into your station, the pickpockets shove in after everyone else crowds on. In all the jostling they grab wallets and then jump off the train. The train doors do not close until all passengers are clear of the door. The pickpockts keep the doors open until they get wallets - then jump off and the train pulls out. We watched this happen in horror not able to do a thing. This is an old trick in NYC, so we did not get on the train as wesaw it unfolding. We yelled Gypsies! and Pickpockets! but people did not listen. Many people probably got to the Forum and went to pay for tickets and found their money gone. <BR>- If confronted by these roving bands do not stop your stride or try and push or punch them away. As soon as you lift your arm to push/punch/swipe you leave your pockets vunerable and open to be picked. Stopping to talk/reason will guarantee a theft. Keep your arms tucked in and just force your way past. Once past, we never saw them follow anyone. <BR>- Don't flash cash in open spaces. Learn the diffrent denominations so you don't have to slowly go through your money with every purchase. <BR>- Ditch the expensive Prada/Fendi/ bags. You might as well weara bulleye on your butt. <BR>- If you have Travelers Cheques, write down the serial numbers in a seperate place so you can get them replaced if you do get robbed. <BR>- Avoid wearing back packs - to easy to get into while in congested areas. <BR>Well, I'm sure there are more tips but those worked for us. I'm sure people here will downplay the pickpocket thing and tell you it happens all over the world. Yes, it does. But I have never seen it so bad as it was in Italy. We were conscious of it the whole time and it really did put a damper on some of the trip. I hope just one person gets some ideas from this post and doesn't lose their money. That's MY revenge on those freaking Gypsy bastards.

dAWN Nov 16th, 1999 09:06 AM

I'm with you Shane, and frequently this problem is downplayed on this Forum. This is a very serious situation that many people choose to believe only happens to other people. I have traveled through much of Europe and Italy is the worst. My husband who is from Tuscany has been targeted, luckily, they never got anything. Italy is notorius for this problem, and the officials almost accept it as a line of employment. Your comments are true, and your tips are much appreciated. I always feel bad for the people who are very unassuming and do not realize that this is a serious problem. Italy is a glorius country, with a wealth of art, history, etc. But please, do not underestimate. Great tips!

Bob Brown Nov 16th, 1999 10:27 AM

I agree that pickpockets are a threat in Europe. I was targeted, frisked, and rejected on the Paris Metro. The frisking was done so skillfully that I never felt it. (A fluent English speaker seated on the train asked me if everything was still in my pockets. Not sure how he knew; I pondered the question "Was he an accomplice?" But what good would it have done him to reveal what had just happened and put me on guard?) I guess my billfold was too thin to be worth of the boy's efforts. I had very little to take -- $7.00 US, voter registration card, and a couple other minor items. The major stuff was elsewhere. People who scoff at the idea that pickpockets are a threat need to be robbed; perhaps that would make a believer out of them. <BR>

Arnold Nov 16th, 1999 06:50 PM

Kill the freakin gypsies... just knock em out with an old 1 - 2 ... smack the girl gypsies around .. take the kid gypsies and sell them into slavery. <BR> <BR>I never have a problem with em .. I just knock the crap out of em.

David Nov 16th, 1999 07:00 PM

Your post lost a lot of credibility with me by your characterization of an entire group of people as "freaking bastards". Call the criminal element what you like but don't indict an entire race of people. Europe has seen too much of that!

lola Nov 17th, 1999 07:04 AM

Thanks for the wonderfully useful posting Shane! My husband was at an ATM near the Rome train station while I was guarding and checking for suspicious-looking folks. I told him the coast was clear, he did the transaction, and his money was taken in 10 seconds by a man who came out of no-where while I was scanning elsewhere. Theft is a major problem in Italy, Spain and some other areas, and one that this forum acknowledges and deals with so well. I'm sure many of us will be spared the ordeal in the future by following your advice.

Ray Nov 17th, 1999 07:21 AM

I just returned from two weeks in Italy: Cinque Terre,Spezia,pisa,siena,Lucca,Florence,Verona,Serm ione, Bellagio, and did not encounter or witnessed a single incident of pickpocketing. <BR> <BR>My last encounter with a pickpocketer was in Prague last year in the subway, and like Arnold suggests, I punched him out.

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