Rome - countering pickpockets

Old Mar 30th, 2003, 06:53 PM
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Rome - countering pickpockets

I've read much about the danger of pickpockets in Rome. I think that this is an obvious risk, but I also think that it has been over-stated.<BR><BR>Despite that, I'd like to get some ideas on how to thwart pickpockets.<BR><BR>I think it is unreasonable for my wife not to carry a handbag even if it is just for maps or books. Given that, what type of bag is best to carry. It's not fanny packs, I imagine it's not backpacks. What can be carried so that the vacation is not ruined either by being too fearful or by being too lax?<BR><BR>And cameras, how does one record their trips and good times without being a target for hoodlums?<BR><BR>Thanks.
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Old Mar 30th, 2003, 07:57 PM
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Having been all over Italy extensively, I can tell you that the pickpocket are not over-stated. Yes, your wife can carry a purse with the opening toward her body. She should also wear it across her shoulders instead of on her shoulder. Don't carry a lot of money in her purse or in pants pockets. Make a copy of your passport and carry that. Leave the original with copies of your credit cards in the hotel safe or in the bottom of your locked suitcase in the back of a closet. Pickpockets like crowds and people alone. If you see a child or gypsie type person coming toward you with a &quot;baby&quot;or newspaper, chase them away. Buses are also great places for pickpockets. There's nothing to be fearful about, just be aware. My daughter was ahead of us and a teenager came around from behind us. He followed my daughter. She had a backpack on with only a bottle of water and a jacket in it. As he got to about 3 feet from her I called her name. She turned around and was face to face with him. He ran. Cameras...my husband has the camera on his belt and we take it out of the case whenever we need it.
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Old Mar 30th, 2003, 07:57 PM
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Hi md, tell your wife to go ahead and take a purse, just make sure that it closes up tight and can be held close to the body in crowds and really most of the time you are touring.<BR>I have a black purse that has a top zipper and an overflap that clasps shut over it. When I am in a crowded area I wear it across my chest or just under my arm with my hand clutching it.<BR><BR>Actually I do this in crowds at home in Los Angeles too.
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Old Mar 30th, 2003, 09:04 PM
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I use my same everyday pocketbook for travel. Medium size, leather, with a zip top, and thick strap, long enough to be worn cross ways on my body. Hold it tight and don't be distracted in crowds or on public transporation. Same as I do at home (urban Seattle).<BR><BR>Personally I simply use disposable cameras. They really take pretty good snapshots and there's nothing to lose but 1 roll of film. Take 1 daylight, 1 flash, and 1 panoramic!
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Old Mar 30th, 2003, 11:43 PM
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My husband I were in Rome for two weeks last year. We did come across gypsies on one occasion on a very open road from the Collosseum. I just shouted at them and they went away. Apart from that we did not feel threatened. Just be aware. My husband carries our money in a cotton moneybelt under his shirt. I dont keep much in my purse. Everything else we usually carry are in our rucksacks, including camera and we have not had a problem.
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 12:48 AM
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I agree that the pickpocket concern is a valid one. I have beetn to Italy 6 times and on every trip-someone in our group was pickpocketed.<BR><BR>I keep my airline ticket and passport in the hotel safe. I also wear one of those under your clothes money pocket things. I keep more money and an extra credit card in there. In my wallet I only keep the amount of money I anticipate needing that day. If I loose that-I can handle it. If I need more money or the credit card, I just find a bathroom and get out what I need.<BR>It works for me.
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 03:55 AM
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Natalia: I o just like you in Milano, my own hometown. I just use a bag that can be safely closed and wear it with a hand draped over the closing, or near it. On buses and subways I pull the bag right in front of me. Fanny bags are perfect because you always have them right in front of you. As an alternative, keep the bag betwwen you and the wall of the bus (on the side o behind you). If you use a small backpack, wear it on one sholuder only, with the actual bag lying between your body and an arm, and in the crowd wear it backwards (or should I say forewards?), this means that you have to wear it down your front istead of down your back. What is most inportant is the attitude: do never loo scared or worried, because this might signal that you are worried because you fear being robbed, and since you fera being robbet this might mean that you carry a lot of money and other valuables, so that you are an interesting target!<BR>One last thing: bringing copies of your douments is not a good idea. Much better to leave the copies at the hotel or wherever you are staying. Photoopies are not valid as documents, therefore, in case you need to demonstrate your identity, you will need the documents themselves; copies will not be accepted by any Italian police officer (or any other kind of officer that has a right to check your documents). Therefore you will need (depending on the case) to renounce visinting some structures or to go be forced to stay in the police's custody until someone brings the police your documents. On the other hand, photocopies might come handy in ase you actually get pickpocketed, in order to denounce it and in order to have new copies of your documents from the Embassy or Consulate.
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 04:48 AM
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Boy did you bring back memories MDtraveler!<BR><BR>When we were in Rome pickpockets were working everywhere. That was all that most Americans meeting up talked about.<BR><BR>We were downstairs in the tombs under the Vatican and hubby and friends were ahead of me in the crowd. I had a shoulder bag on and a camera in hand. I felt the slightest pressure and looked and smacked my hand against my handbag. This guy had his hand IN my bag and said &quot;Sorry dropped flash&quot; and took off. I was very lucky that he wasn't as good a pickpocket as others. Be very wary - leave passport and airline tickets in safe at hotel. Wear an inside the shirt wallet and just carry a few bills in your pocket.
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 05:36 AM
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A couple more questions based on the answers.<BR><BR>What is a 'rucksack'? Is it a backpack?<BR><BR>A number of people said that the would be perps ran when you yelled at them. Just what did you yell? I don't want to look like a crazy guy yelling at everyone that gets close to me!
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 05:43 AM
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Hi MD,<BR><BR> Help! is Aiuto! <BR> Police is Police <BR>
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 06:04 AM
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Calling &quot;Aiuto&quot; Or &quot;Polizia&quot; or &quot;Al ladro&quot; (thief) is usually a good way to cause a lot of people to walk the other way. As is taught in self defence classes (at least here in Italy) if you are alone in the street it is better to cry &quot;Al fuoco!&quot; (fire), which will cause much more people to run to you. In the crowd, anything you scream will cause engough heads to turn, but if you really want the guy to get abused, cry &quot;Tieni gi&ugrave; le mani, porco!&quot; (keep your hands off me, you pig!). It work beatifully, if you are a woman &gt;;-&gt;
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 06:10 AM
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Just came back from Rome and we had no problems with pickpockets. We did , however, see a group of gypsies being chased back into the metro by police. They are for real and they are loud and a menace. We used security pouches that loop onto your belt and are placed inside your pants. They work really nicely. Just carry a small shoulder pack or bag for your camera, guides, and water and keep it in the front of you or under a jacket. Pickpockets are not hard to foil as long as you are wise about it.
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 06:15 AM
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When we were in Italy I sewed velcro strips into one pocket of most of our trousers/shorts (big enough that nothing would get out of the pocket without the velcro being opened - about 3 inches long). We each kept some money, a credit card and some ID in those pockets so that a pickpocket would not leave us totally stranded. The velcro is good because you can undo it with one hand so you can use the pocket as normal, but it makes a tug and a bit of a noise that you will notice.<BR><BR>The rest of our things we carried similarly to above described - my husband had a wallet in his front pocket, I had a purse with a zipper that I kept my hand on. Camera was attached to belt or in my bag. We had no problems (possibly just lucky!)<BR><BR>Have a great trip!
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 08:00 AM
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Sorry to disagree with you Alice, but the copies of the passport is correct. You can always send to your hotel to bring the original if you need it. Also the backpack thing was incorrect. Gypsies grab and slip anything off of you that isn't secured. Holding on one arm is not secured. Holding it down in front of you can be grabbed also. A purse across you and under held by your arm and hand is the best. Backpacks are good for jackets, water, books, and things that can be replaced.
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 08:07 AM
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Whenever I'm in Italy (or any other major European city) I just do much as I would in London. I use my normal handbag, but I keep a close guard on it, especially when in any crowded situation such as the tube/metro or a market. I have never sewed velcro onto my pockets or used safety pins. And I've never been pickpocketed (except once here in London about 10 years ago, and it was sort of my fault - I'd left my bag open on a crowded bus. It wasn't a zippered bag, just a simple latch closure, and it was kind of behind me and I was tired and not paying attention.) Just be aware. <BR><BR>One of the tricks that gypsy kids will use is to come up to you jabbing a newspaper at you horizontally. While you are taken aback wondering what is going on, one of them has meanwhile picked your pocket or bag. So if you see them coming (as Ann1 pointed out) just shout no or cross the street. They are cheeky and aggressive but not dangerous. <BR><BR>There are pickpocket risks in any major city, not just in Rome, so do as you would whenever you go to a major city... <BR><BR>I find &quot;fanny packs&quot; are generally a bad idea, and tend to scream out &quot;target&quot;.
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 08:33 AM
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Ann1<BR>If you have a bag that is too tightly secured to you, any &quot;scippatore&quot; (that's the Italian word for those grab and run thieves you are referring to) will stil grab and run, usually on a moped, the only differnce being that if the bag is too secured to you wuo will fall too and may be dragged along for some meters, with potentially very serious consequences. I have seen enough people end up like this to just avoid securing anything too much on my own body, unless in a scipattori-safe area. Also, gipsies are usually regular (and not very skilled) pickpockets (they tried more than once to pull the wallet out of my trousers back pocket!) wh will not attempt stealing anything you have a feel on (or will not succeed in it).<BR>Also, going around with photocopies might, in some cases (although this will hardly happen to a foreigner) lead to being arrested for having non valid documents! Do not forget that half the law of Italy still date back to fascism, when not having valid papers might mean real prison.<BR>By the way, I have been all over Italy for my whole life (33 years since yesterday), also being a tourist in Italy and i hae never been pickpocketed once, The only time I lost anything to a thief was because I had left my bag unattended with a brand new Nokia cellphone in the front sleeve 8'-(!
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 08:46 AM
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A quick note on carrying original passport vs. a copy: While I would normally not want to worry about having the original with me (better to keep it safe at the hotel), current travel advisories are strongly suggesting the need for Americans to carry originals with them (and to know the location and phone no. of U.S. embassy in each city visited). Without wanting to be paranoid, I think I'll do that this summer when I visit Italy.
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 09:07 AM
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MD...I would suggest a backpack instead of purse for one main reason...so you can share in the carrying of it! My dad and I spent two weeks in Europe in Oct, and I had a very, very small purse for my daily cash &amp; cc (important stuff was in moneybelt), and we took turns carrying the backpack with water bottles, books, maps, film, etc. Gets heavy after a while!! <BR><BR>Enjoy your trip!<BR><BR>Anne
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 09:13 AM
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Hi Alice,<BR> You wrote<BR>&gt;Calling &quot;Aiuto&quot; Or &quot;Polizia&quot; ...is usually a good way to cause a lot of people to walk the other way. ..if you are alone in the street it is better to cry &quot;Al fuoco!&quot; (fire), which will cause much more people to run to you. &lt;<BR><BR> Same thing in large US cities.
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Old Mar 31st, 2003, 09:23 AM
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I have been to Rome 3 times in the past 20 years and never had any problems with pickpockets. In fact, I never even saw any until riding on a bus with gypsies during my last visit. I always carry my camera (and it's a pretty decent SLR camera) and a small purse or backpack. I also don't wear expensive or flashy jewelry or accessories. When I saw these gypsies on the bus, both young woman carrying infants, I thought they looked suspicious. They actually appeared to be eyeing me (I was standing and the bus was crowded, i was wearing my backpack at the time). One sat and nursed her baby, as a distraction, while the other seemed to be 'positioning herself'. I was keeping an eye on both of them all along. As soon as I saw the one standing (also carry a baby wrapped with a blancket) moving closer to me with her hands moving under the baby blanket, I turned and stared at her straight in the eyes. The 2 women got off the bus at the next stop. I was not nervous. My backpack has many compartments, zippers, flaps and clips. Any valuables where stashed in hard to reach places. If this gypsy even tried to get her hands in my backpack, she probably would have ended up with tissues or a pen. I think the most important thing is to pay attention of your surroundings and don't have any valuables in easy to reach places (pockets, unzippered bags, etc.).
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