The Issue of Pickpockets in Paris.

Nov 13th, 2005, 07:07 PM
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The Issue of Pickpockets in Paris.

I keep hearing a lot of things about pick pockets in Paris.

I am from SF, and have heard that we have some, although I have thankfully never experienced that.

How bad is the pickpocket situation in Paris? I don't usually carry a purse, and would be carrying a regular backpack with me when I visit.

Other than keeping my id, and cash in my front pockets, what else should I look out for?
milliondollarbbw is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 07:11 PM
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I've been several times in Parisand not ripped off but here, in Boston, through the years, maybe three times.
cigalechanta is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 07:43 PM
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I'm from SF too. And the pickpockets do exist aboard the buses and subways.

As to Paris pickpockets, you can pretty much substitute Paris for any other city as pickpockets are pretty much everywhere.

At home I'm fine and don't use a money belt, but I do so when I travel abroad. I suppose it reasons that if I don't use a money belt at home then I shouldn't use it overseas. But that's just my preference. Many others feel that money belts are a hindrance.
francophile03 is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 07:54 PM
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I did not carry my wallet in my packback purse but instead put it maps, water bottle, etc. Every time I got off the metro the zipper on the purse was down. I thought it was broken and rather strange. Then realized that someone must have been opening it on the metro.

Another time I was at Montmarte early in the morning. My friend had a backpack on. One of those artist's came running up in front of us frantically asking to draw our pictures. I told him to get away and then realized guy no. 2 was attempting to get into my friend's backpack.

If you must put your wallet in a backpack, make sure that you have it zipped into an inner pocket - makes it a little more difficult to get at. If you are really worried, use a money belt. Keeping your cash and id in your front pocket won't help.

A friend of mine also told me a story about kids who stopped the turnstile in the metro pinning her in and trying to snatch her purse.

Ronda is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 08:07 PM
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Beware the gang of kids with the sheet of cardboard.

If someone drops a ticket next to your foot on the Metro, his cohort will be in your pocket when you lift your foot.

Personal experience, not stories. Total loss, 400 francs, only one of three episodes got the wallet (and we got it back less the money), but I am paranoid and have fast reflexes, and an observant wife, and I sometimes have been known to yell profanities in French and use my fist.
AJPeabody is online now  
Nov 13th, 2005, 08:23 PM
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My practice has been to put my passport, credit cards, driver's license, and any large euro notes in my neck wallet. This goes under my shirt.

I do carry some money in my wallet so I don't have to be constantly digging under my shirt. Slight risk there, but I have trousers with zipper pockets that my wife reinforced with velcro to add just one more little barrier.

I don't think any method is foolproof, but I try to make myself a harder target than the next guy or girl.

Now, about pickpockets. I was set up and targeted while boarding a Paris Metro car. The thief passed on me because my wallet in my hip pocket had nothing in it, or at least that is what I think. It was too skinny for him to bother.

The procedure was this. Older man, obviously an American, approach the Metro car. Thief is pretending to read the route map posted above the door.
He was actually running his finger along the map and blocked me as I entered the car. As I enter, he bumps into me while reading the map, then exits the train just as the doors close. Well timed, well executed. But he came up empty.

I never felt a thing and would have thought nothing more except someone said to me, in English, "Is everything still in your pockets?" I felt, and sure enough nothing was missing.

My wife noticed the guy brush into me and asked, "What's with that guy?" Well, he was trying to rob me.

Just remember, that a skilled thief will open a pocket or a zipper and you will not feel a thing. I don't know how they do it, but they have fingers that are more skilled than a brain surgeon's.

Also bear in mind that most pickpockets don't just walk up to you and jerk your wallet out and run.

First there is a distraction. Then someone goes for the target. The distraction is the key. Bumping, stopping you for directions, causing a commotion, anything to divert your attention and throw you off stride.

Ideally, there is a readily available escape route after the theft. That is why I thought the subway thief was so clever. He had it timed just right. Had he taken my wallet, there would have been nothing I could have done because he squeezed out the subway car door just as it was closing and the train started moving.

I say I think he took it because it was empty. That is of course pure conjecture. I had only $7.00 and a Metro ticket in there. All else was under my shirt and jacket.

So make yourself a hard target and remember that a backpack is very inviting. I am not so sure that front pockets are all that good an idea unless they zip shut, which might cause just a little delay.
bob_brown is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 08:30 PM
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My family members visit France a couple of times a year and yes, there are pick-pockets and other thievery in the urban areas. Is it worse than some places? Maybe. Several of us have experienced some minor pick-pocket incidents, a few dollars taken out of pockets, etc. The worse thing that happened to us was when my in-laws, driving in downtown Nice, stopped at a traffic light. 2 guys on a motor scooter stopped next to them, the passenger on the scooter opened their back door which was not locked, reached in and grabbed my mother-in-law's purse. The scooter was then able to weave in and out of traffic away from them. At the police station, the police said this sort of thing happens all the time, and chided them for not locking their car doors at all times. Bottom line is: be as alert as possible and take every precaution.
Tuxedocat is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 08:31 PM
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The best defense against the pickpockets in Paris is simply to ensure that nothing of value to you is easily accessible to them. Front pockets should be deep (better if zippered).

I leave the wallet at home and bring only a small business card case. When out and about during the day, I keep a bit of cash in one front pocket and a card or two in the other. If a pocket zippers, all goes in that one.

Pickpockets work in teams and are rampant on some of the subways (the ones along the major tourist attractions) and tourist destinations (Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees...). They scout for the easiest target. Don't be one. If you don't carry a wallet, they can't go after it.
djkbooks is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 08:45 PM
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I wear a shoulder bag that is slung across my chest and always keep my lefthand resting on the top. Very comfortable actually, BUT can I advise you NOT to put any money in your backpack.
Take only the amount you think you will need for a day plus a back-up credit card and keep it in a moneybelt, bag across the shoulder or moonbag. Keep a few euro notes at the bottom of your front pants pockets with a handkerchief on top for quick access. (Getting to money well hidden means a trip to the loo).
Keep a copy of your passport with you and the rest of important stuff like airticket & large cash/credit cards/passport in you hotel room safe.
Don't always think the thief is a MAN -gangs of females are the ones to watch out for!
tod is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 08:49 PM
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I was a target on the metro as well. The culprits, a young couple, I'd notice exiting the previous car and entering mine. I should have known something was wrong when I saw them do that, but I didn't think anything of it. Little did I know I would be the next victim. But actually they got nothing in the end as I exited before the guy's oily hands got into my bag. Lesson was definitely learned after that.
francophile03 is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 09:41 PM
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I never (fortunately) was pickpocketed in Paris, the most annoying thing for me was those creeps that hang out by the eiffel tower jingling their string of chintzy tower souveniers in your face!
daisy58 is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 10:02 PM
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I think the french police could put a big dent in this nasty pickpocket thing if they caught a few in the morning and then dropped them off the Eiffel Tower at noon each day.

degas is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 10:06 PM
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Pickpockets are a problem for tourists in any area where tourists gather. There are many such areas in Paris, with thousands of tourists, so pickpockets can be quite a problem in the city. I've never had my pocket picked, but perhaps five percent of my visiting clients have experienced it. One had his back pocket picked on a crowded bus; another was deliberately distracted in the Métro and had his pocket picked; still another had his brand-new video camera stolen from an open plastic shopping back at his feet.

Locals are not disturbed, as a general rule, because they carry far less of value, and because they are not distracted by the wonders of the city around them. Tourists are targeted because the present an irresistible combination of cash and cluelessness that makes them easy marks. Even so, I think that some tourists are much more vulnerable than others, depending on how aware they are, how foolish they are, and so on.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Nov 14th, 2005, 04:58 AM
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Some places are more problematic than others (as AnthonyGA mentioned, the places where tourists congregate can be problematic). Also, some of the really crowded stations and those that also serve the trains. On the metro, I'm always very careful on Line 1 (which stops at a lot of the tourist must-sees), Chatelet-Les Halles, any station that is linked to a train station, etc. I also avoid the flip-down seats beside the doors on the metro (for reasons like those that bob brown mentioned); I prefer to sit further away, or to stand and keep my bag between the door/wall and other people. Valuables are always zipped up inside interior pockets in my purse (I've switched from a daypack to a purse since I moved here). I'm also quite careful in cafes; my purse stays on my lap, unless I'm lucky enough to have a secure space to stash it (e.g. my back is to the wall and there's no one nearby). But these are the precautions I used to follow in any American city I visited. And I see fewer problems here on the streets(except the metro, which is the same as almost any large city in the world) than a number of other large cities.

The other thing to be careful about is getting distracted by your map. A Korean colleague of ours, who knows Paris fairly well, stopped the other day to check his map. He put his briefcase down on the pavement - and it was gone ... Pulling out a map in a crowded touristy area does make you a target (among the dozens of similar targets, mind you). Be careful. If there are two of you, make sure one person is watching your stuff and not letting himself/herself get distracted. If you're by yourself, see if it's possible to step into a shop or cafe if you need to consult your map or guidebook, rather than standing on the street or a public square. And invest in the little "Paris Pratique" pocket-sized map books, instead of pulling out your guidebook. All Parisiens have this map or something similar, so using one won't single you out as a tourist the way a guidebook will (and they're fairly small, so it's less obvious that you're consulting a map).
Kate_W is offline  
Nov 14th, 2005, 05:04 AM
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Hi M,

Your backpack will be slit and your front pockets will be picked.

A purse carried under a jacket or across your chest would be safer than a backpack.

Your other valuables would be much safer in a travel wallet under your clothes or in a money belt.

ira is offline  
Nov 14th, 2005, 06:31 AM
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There's no guarantee that your backpack will be slit, and your front pockets will be picked. Nothing like this has ever happened to me, anywhere (and I've travelled a lot and I live in Paris). (I make this comment, somewhat tongue in cheek, to emphasise that absolute statements like yours are rather extreme.)

But, is it wise to assume that, in a large city (in Europe or elsewhere) that there's a not insignificant risk that there are pickpockets preying on distracted people who look like they don't know where they're going? Yes, of course it is. Should you take precautions, such as assuming that your backpack could be slit open and your front pockets picked? Yes, of course you should. Should you limit the valuables you carry and secure them in less accessible places (personally, I think a neckpouch is unnecessary in Paria and will present more problems than solve them)? Yes.

Should you quiver, terror-stricken in your bed at home before your trip - or during your trip - about the possibility that you might be robbed? No.
Kate_W is offline  
Nov 14th, 2005, 09:55 AM
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Oh dear - KateW, Your korean friend did the ultimate no-no when putting things down in public places like airports etc.! ALWAYS ALWAYS put the "thing" between your feet!(a note to myself!)
Even at a cafe, I put my one foot through a strap/whatever to ensure it's harder(not impossible I guess) for someone to make off with my stuff!
However, I confess to one incident where I got very lucky.
This October when arriving at CDG I was distracted in the line leading up to immigration by three young blokes needing a pen to fill out the necessary forms. Being a good neighbour I offered to give them one of my 4 or 5 pens but to do this I had to put down my hold-all bag containing my jacket and shoes.
Well, you guessed it - I grabbed my suitcase and left the bag! Within minutes I realised my mistake but had to talk with the 'officials' before they let me back. I looked down at all the legs and lo & behold there was my bag!
I knew I was lucky but what goes around comes around. On the previous flight I gentleman went through the scanner, picked up his briefcase and walked off leaving his 4 bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne to me!! I took the stuff to security and they assured me he had come to claim it. Who knows - maybe he did!
tod is offline  
Nov 14th, 2005, 11:04 AM
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Once in New York City (where I used to live), I used a bank machine but failed to carefully put my wallet back into my daypack. When I started to cross the sidewalk, the wallet fell out.

A sweatshirted, baggy pants-wearing teenage boy (who had been calling me "hey baby" while I stood at the crosswalk) ran after me down the street (wallet in hand) calling "yo, hey lady, lady ..." In my best "I'm from New York don't bug me style", I ignored him - until he caught up to me and handed me my wallet. And chastised me for not being more careful at the bank machine. Everything was in my wallet, and nothing mysterious happened later (in other words, he didn't take the wallet or take anything out of it). That kid took a very big risk chasing me down the street while holding a woman's wallet in his hand. And I learned that sometimes those people who are trying to distract you on the street actually want to help you (but not that often ...)
Kate_W is offline  
Nov 15th, 2005, 04:05 AM
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Paris is not bad, no worse then any other big city,of course Rome however, is a differrent story and the further south in Italy you travel the worse it becomes. I never keep all my cash or credit cards together so if I do fall prey to a pickpocket more then likely they don't get it all.
bill_w is offline  
Nov 16th, 2005, 02:41 PM
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It's extraordinarily unusual for your bag or sack to be slit open in Paris. The technique is apparently common in some cities, but Paris isn't that bad.

However, if you aren't careful where you put things, or if you leave them unattended, they can rapidly disappear. Conversely, sometimes, when you least expect it, you accidentally leave something somewhere, and when you return, it's still there.
AnthonyGA is offline  

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