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Posted by
1584 posts

You are a brave man for bringing up this subject 😀. I’ve see too many first timer posters being run off of this forum for asking a question about pickpockets.
Thanks for sharing and good to know what the local government is saying about the issue being on the rise.

Posted by
8507 posts

Interesting, Marco.
Frank II, just one little nitpick: it’s cases REPORTED on the rise. Nonetheless, I’ll assume the act has increased based on an increase in reporting.

Posted by
6950 posts

I just always assumed the authorities knew who the pickpockets were as they watch them all day in the metro system--either in person or on closed circuit television. Isn't it an accepted profession in some places?
And yes, a couple of them took a dive at the bottom of a Metro escalator in front of us in rush hour, resulting in 10 or more people in a pile. And their cohorts went to work taking away possessions of on those on the ground.

Posted by
776 posts

Another part of the equation is the huge increase in metro ridership leaving in some places according to studies 4 persons per square meter on some routes. As the lines are pushed farther into suburbs and business and government buildings move farther out, pressure on the metro will only continue. Hold onto your stuff.

Posted by
2057 posts

Are we to infer that there is no actual increase in crime, only a reported increase?

If you actually read the article in le Parisien, and yes it is in French, some officials partly attribute the rise in crime to a 2015 decrease of some 350 police officers patrolling the métro network. Increased crime is more than assumed. Le Parisien characterizes the theft increase as an explosion of 60% above previous levels just within the first 10 months of this year.

A few months ago, 3 RATP employees were intimidated and threatened by a pickpocket gang simply for warning others of the gang's presence in the métro. In one case near CdG/Etoile, a female conductor was assaulted by a group of young pickpockets (all girls) when the conductor announced on the PA: Attention, pickpockets. When word reached other conductors what had happened, service stopped immediately on a number of other métro lines, as a show of support and to draw attention to the problem.

The good news is that the problem is hopefully getting the attention it deserves; arrests are up as a result of increase police presence, and warnings are more prevalent than ever.

Le Parisien also has an interesting list of 10 suggestions to avoid pickpockets and enhance your personal safety (most are rather obvious):

  1. Keep backpacks in front of you
  2. Use a banana pouch rather than a backpack. (These are not yet terribly popular with Americans.)
  3. Be particularly alert in tourist areas.
  4. Keep your wallet in an interior pocket, preferable one with a zipper. (I put my wallet inside my shirt whenever I am on M-1).
  5. Keep rolling luggage close.
  6. Avoid looking like a tourist. (I found this suggestion particularly interesting.)
  7. Keep valuables hidden, including your mobile phone/cameras.
  8. Know that pickpockets often blend and may look like tourists themselves.
  9. Stay alert to any unusual situation. (Such as someone dropping coins or arguing loudly.)
  10. Carry a minimum amount of cash.
Posted by
34 posts

Unsurprising. I’ve only been pickpocketed once in my life and it was in Paris. And I’ve lived all over and have traveled widely.

Heck even Mr. Steve’s himself was recently-ish (2017) a victim in Paris.

https://blog.ricksteves.com/blog/pickpocketed-paris/

All the advice from Tocard above is wise if you’re traveling there. And of course use a money belt.

Posted by
2543 posts

I was pickpocketed only once, in 1977 in NYC on Wall Street during my lunch time. I was only 19 but learned a life lesson. I am always aware and careful, even here in NYC. I never, never use a bag that doesn’t zip close. I never use a backpack, usually a small crossbody, under my jacket, or a fannypack. I keep my hand on my bag when in crowded areas or on the subway. It only has to happen to you once to make an impact.

Posted by
943 posts

I does help to listen to these discussions because nothing ruins a trip like losing your money, credit cards and passport. I've traveled in Europe yearly for the last ten years and yet to be pickpocketed because I read a lot on these forums and use measures that make me a very difficult target. I found wearing a money belt was not comfortable for me so I have gone to using pants by Clothing arts that are designed to have pockets with zippers inside of pockets and they work for me ( I'm not affiliated with Clothing arts).

It always surprises me how many tourists walk around with cell phones sticking out their back pockets or bags over their shoulders that are gaping open, or lay their phones or wallets on a table while eating. It would help greatly if these folks would just take some time before their trip to read up on travel skills, it made a world of difference for me.

Posted by
13700 posts

Keep backpacks in front of you

That looks sooooo dorky. It's also a walking advertisement that, yo, THERE IS SOMETHING WORTH SNATCHING IN THIS!
Just don't put anything of value in the thing, and wear it as intended. Doh.
On a side note, HeyitsPhil, your user name is a hoot!

Posted by
7205 posts

I’ve been the victim of attempted pickpocketing once in my 20 years of traveling to Europe. Pickpockets have been around for centuries....

So don’t make yourself a target!

Posted by
4370 posts

We were just targeted on a train about to leave the Milan train station. We were looking for our seats. There was some confusion among passengers because there were two sets of numbers above the seats. I determined that our seats were on the other end of the car. I walked thru the car with a cross body purse, a small backpack and a small carryon rolling suitcase and my husband was behind me. Two women approached me. I allowed one to pass and the other insisted I should put my suitcase in the luggage area in the middle of the car. I said I planned to put it over my seat. She didn't step aside and I realized that something was up. I looked down and the woman that had passed me had her purse very close to me and her large scarf covering my purse and my purse zipper had been opened. I said very loudly if they didn't get their hands off me and my purse, I'd break them. (Said the woman who can't get the pickle jar open! ;) ) They tried to look innocent and called me a crazy tourist, and quickly walked thru the train and exited.

I had my small wallet which had only a credit card and a small amount of cash at the bottom of my purse. On top, was snacks and miscellaneous things I planned to use on the train trip. A money belt held my passport and other credit cards. They weren't going to get anything. Since then, when I'm in a crowded area, I use a safety pin, to pin the zipper closed on the bag.

I am always very aware where I keep my valuables and my surroundings. I try to bring as little as possible. Lastly, I truly think I'm personally more safe in most parts of Europe than I am in the U.S.

Posted by
11 posts

Not trying to add to any undue hysteria or overreactions, but we were in Paris last Christmas and we were targeted twice!
Once at a busy metro interchange, I think Chatelet. It was classic: The train doors opened, we started to enter, some guy ahead stopped just inside the door and jammed us so we couldn't move as others folks were still trying to get off. I thought I felt a slight tug on my cargo pant leg, then another. I turned my head and this guy behind me raised his hands and shouted something akin to "hey back off" (in french). This was the cue for his partner, the clog in the doorway, to scram. He didn't get anything. The stuff in that cargo pocket was tangled up in headphone wires. A wench couldn't get that stuff out.

The other, we were on our way to Montmarte at an above ground platform. I was lagging behind my wife and daughter trotting to the next train. Ahead of me they passed a guy talking loudly on his cell phone. He looked them up and down as they passed, then he followed them onto the car. When I got on I scooted near them to "protect" I guess. He caught me staring at him and hopped right back off the train before the doors closed. I saw him on the platform pretending to talk on his phone again.

Interesting note: both guys were either carrying or wearing very distinctive items. Man at Chatelet had a bright yellow plastic bag, like for shopping. The guy on the phone was wearing a bright red baseball hat. I assume this was so that if we yelled for police, they could run and ditch these cheap items in the trash. Our description would be limited to "a man with red hat" or "a man with yellow bag." Neither of which would exist anymore.

Also - in the 10 days we were in Paris, we used Navigo cards and rode the metro every single day. Not once did we see any manner of law enforcement on any platform or train.

That said - there was no harm done. We never felt scared or in danger. And these two events gave our family a little excitement and memorable stories. It was kind of like spotting a rare wild animal in the woods or something, except with the risk of losing money.

Just keep your stuff in inside pockets. No amount of pickpockets could put a blemish on Paris.

Posted by
6728 posts

pickpocketing has been made easier for the organized crime families behind it since Schengen but I doubt that it has increased recently. It is pretty ubiquitous in Paris and of course since the if these kids are arrested, authorities don't incarcerate them, the minors who are the primary legions of well trained operatives of these crime families continue their work. There is no incentive for enforcement on the part of the police since nothing comes of enforcement.

Posted by
9921 posts

Add me to the list of having been pickpocketed in Paris. It was somewhere between entering the Odeon Metro stop and transiting thru Grenelle-Motte-Picquet Metro stop in 2017. I noted my purse was open when I was standing on the platform to catch the next Metro. I zipped it up, boarded but didn't check my purse until I got back to my hotel. They had missed my change purse with my CC and my day money which was in the small unzipped zipper pocket inside my cross body bag. They DID get my pouch containing my OTC meds and hand lotion. At no time did I feel anyone near me or get bumped. I had zipped up my purse when I made my last purchase (at a scarf shop, of course, lol!) They are good.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/oops-sort-of-pick-pocketed-on-paris-metro-yesterday

I added small metal rings to the zips on my purse and close them with carabiners. At the suggestion of Lynn from Boise I sewed in a metal ring to the inside of my purse and added a Dri-Dock spiral cord to attach my OTC pouch. I also added a ring so I can carabiner the small interior zipper pocket closed. That experience made me more careful about doing up the carabiners every. single. time. I do use a money belt for my back up CC/DCs that I'm not using for the day. When I get cash, I usually try to run over to the ATM right after breakfast and come back to the hotel room to re-stash my DC and my extra money.

I will never look like anything but a tourist in Europe. I'm gray haired, overweight and wear American clothing and shoes. I live in a small town where I can leave my purse on the front seat and keys in the ignition of my open car when I run into the Post Office to check my mail. I do appreciate the reminders on here regarding pickpockets and scams as it helps me focus!

Posted by
8411 posts

emma, everything you wrote in both posts is exactly how i see it and what i was taught at university. Thanks for saying it so well.

Posted by
8507 posts

So today, super-crowded sardine-packed Saturday afternoon metro, the conductor announced in French over the loudspeaker to watch all possessions because pickpockets were working the train. Someone must have been targeted and reported it to the conductor while exiting.

Police were busy above ground on the streets today.

As for the minors who can’t be held by law, the Romanian police are in France working with the French police. As for not seeing a police presence: there are plenty of plain clothes officers, spotting and trailing professional adult pickpockets. I watched a documentary where the tourist wasn’t even aware they’d been victimized until the police stopped the thief and informed the victim. However, the victim had a plane to catch and no time to press charges. As for attempts: we’ve had a few over the years.

Posted by
4370 posts

I agree that statistics can be massively manipulated. However, another consideration might be that, actual pickpocketing may, in fact, be increasing, but that given the rise in numbers of tourists, the number of incidents per tourist may actually be more stable. In any case, no one wants a vacation spoiled because of theft of a passport, money or other valuables, so as long as people can try to keep things in perspective, I have no issue with the reporting of incidents or sharing of strategies to avoid problems.

Again, perhaps in Europe, a traveler MAY be more likely to be a victim of theft, but in terms of bodily harm, I do believe travelers are safer than in some, or even many places in the U.S. And in that regard, my sons live in Chicago and St. Louis. It's not like I'd stop visiting them due to crime issues in those cities. I keep things in perspective understanding how those types of statistics are calculated, and I'm just smart about choosing my activities.

Posted by
1781 posts

I was pickpocketed in Paris in 2007. I was by myself on a crowded elevator on the Eiffel Tower. It was a “team effort” with a man and woman. The woman put her hands on my shoulders, shaking them in supposedly friendly way. I assume her accomplice was going through my pockets. I turned toward her and said “no!” She smiled and apologized. I later realized my back pockets had been unbuttoned. No harm done, everything was safely stowed in my money belt. So, it does happen, just be prepared.

PS - this didn’t deter me from traveling. I’ve been back 10 times, love Paris.

Posted by
1163 posts

I was picked in Paris about 12 years ago at Montparnasse due to my own carelessness but, luckily, lost only a small pouch with the photo memory card of the first half of my trip and a few AA batteries.
Last month there was an attempt on the staircase at Odeon Metro my last night in Paris. I looked down to see some long skinny fingers trying to open my Travelon cross-body purse but those little zipper clips slowed him down enough that I saw him first.
My wallet was also tethered inside so I don't know if he would have actually gotten anything, and my stuff was all in different clipped pockets, but it was disconcerting at best. (And I use a neck wallet so my passport and extra cards and money are safe in any case.)
Just that morning the Paris police had announced the arrest of 131 members of a pickpocket "family!" (I guess they missed my guy...)
So, yes, it does happen, so it helps to take precautions.

Posted by
5 posts

Jules, thanks for the mention of pinning the zipper of your purse closed. I have heard all the other advice before, but I'd forgotten this one if I ever heard it. We also plan to have dummy wallets in easy locations so if someone takes those they won't get anything but an old wallet and a couple of bills, and will use money belts for the important things. (Although as a practical matter, in winter there are times you have to have important items reachable without stripping, so the other security measures will be needed too!) We don't use backpacks - too bulky and easy to pickpocket - but I understand their practicality for many travelers.

The only time I was ever pickpocketed was on a random sidewalk near a grocery store in a decent area of my own town. So being alert at all times is the order of the day.

Posted by
5630 posts

My ex-wife had her wallet picked out of her purse in Paris in 1983. My Daughter had her wallet picked while getting on the RER at CDG. Paris is definitely one of the top places in Europe for pickpockets. Barcelona is at the top. Also, Rome is bad.

That won't keep me from going there, I wear a moneybelt.

As for it being as bad in the USA. I doubt it. If it does, it is in places like NYC, Chicago and LA, not here in the deep south or in the midwest.

Posted by
4370 posts

RS was pick pocketed in Paris. He observed pick pocketers in Lisbon

Posted by
2023 posts

We were not pick pocketed in Paris but there were several close calls. I agree--neck pouch/wallet is a good way to go.

Posted by
2333 posts

As to locales for pickpockets, I was in Athens and got hit. The metro there has a number of very bad practices. When people board, there is a lot of pushing. People stand very close together, even in an uncrowded car. I was in 5 cities taking the public transit. Athens was the absolute worst.

Posted by
12994 posts

I've never been picked in Paris, came close to it once, 2001 (?). There are certain Metro stations known to be "pickpocket stations" where your chance of being picked are greater than , say, in other Metro stations.

Main question is: regardless of the accuracy of the article, does this pickpocket factor affect or influence your decision to go to Paris (or return on repeat trips.?) It won't affect my decision in the least to get back there, have been doing just that since 1973

Posted by
6511 posts

I really do hate these discussions and rarely participate. But it's really getting tiring. If everyone would take proper precautions, secure their valuables, and make a concerted effort to be observant and aware of what's going on around them, the incidence of success by the pickpockets would drop dramatically. Unfortunately too many people just ignore the advice and assume it won't happen to them, then it happens and they scream that the local authorities aren't doing enough. If people take responsibility for themselves and their belongings then they can quit grousing about local police not doing enough to stop it - they will stop it.

End of rant - at least about pickpockets :)

Posted by
4370 posts

Nancy, yes, people talk excessively about pick pockets. But, if people didn't report the situations they encountered, how would others know the situations to avoid, the types of distractions used and strategies to avoid problems? I would never have thought some one might spill something on me to create a distraction. I certainly am not saying to avoid Europe because of pick pockets. However, it happens. I think of the cautions in regard to pick pockets as similar to reminders to bring a hat and mittens if you come to Minnesota in the winter. I would feel bad if someone I knew went to say, Barcelona, and they were pick pocketed and I hadn't mentioned that they needed to take some care. Absolutely, people need to be responsible for themselves. Travel light and place valuables in safer places, but there are other things that happen a new or even experienced travelers may not have thought of.

Posted by
1584 posts

There is nothing “unhealthy” about posts about pickpockets. Those with thousands of posts on this forum should just move on to other topics if they are tired of the subject. Many new people will come along and ask questions or make comments about pickpockets, and there is nothing wrong with that! Writing a simple, kind response is all that is needed.

Posted by
13724 posts

I had an attempt to open my back pack in Paris, some one spotted it and alerted me. She just laughed and walked away. The next day I sat under the Eiffel tower, next to a couple of fine police officers, and the 3 of us watched a gang of pickpockets cleaning the tourists. One actually walked in front of us, taking the cash out of a wallet before tossing it in the bushes.

Only place I've actually beennpersonslly exposed to it. The only other place where someone I have known became a victim was Vienna.

Posted by
76 posts

It's a big problem in Paris that is primarily directed at tourists, since that is who the pickpockets want to target. They leave anyone they think is a local alone since it's higher risk. Those at highest risk are Asian tourists, who are perceived to carry a large amount of cash.

The pickpockets are primarily younger girls from other European countries with an older ringleader. They rely on the fact that the police will not arrest you if you are young. It's something they could stop if they wanted, though, by changing that law and also by targeting their bosses, who are of an age of criminal responsibility. I have seen two of the older ringleaders on a metro line late at night going through the day's haul of wallets in a suitcase. I saw around 50, they were busy sorting what they wanted. RATP security was walking down the train and caught them in the act, was happy to see them arrested at the next stop. That's a rare occurrence, though, normally they just detain the younger girls who all are or claim to be too young to do anything about and the older ringleader is somewhere nearby, but not with them.

Conductors do often report the presence of pickpockets on crowded lines where a gang is running down the trains targeting people. Unfortunately, it's almost always only in French and yes, the conductor's have been targeted by these gangs for making these announcements. Usually when the conductor announces their presence, they also call ratp security/police who will then be at the next couple stations. The gangs will get off and if they see security, they'll try to hop back on to get to the next station to make their escape.

France needs to do something about this since it negatively impacts perceptions of France and willingness to go there. It's number 1 on a lot of people's list of places they want to see and they don't try all that hard to keep it in that spot. Getting robbed can ruin a trip and keep others they tell about it to from coming in the first place. It's also a quality of life issue for people who live here and have to deal with this on a daily basis riding touristic lines, we don't like it either.

As far as someone saying they were a week in Paris and never saw RATP security police, they surely just didn't notice them. I see them almost everyday. There are a lot of ratp security/police and in the larger stations there are also undercover police but what they're targeting isn't necessarily the pickpockets.

There's also a serious but off and on problem with addicts at a few stations that goes way beyond what happens at most stations. Eventually the RATP employees get fed up, the union complains, they don't stop at the station to make a point, and the police clear them out.

Posted by
8507 posts

They don’t leave locals alone. My sister-in-law was hit, my French husband had an attempt on a down escalator at the FNAC, I watched two older men targeting students riding back from the St. Denis university campus on the 13, my niece used to drive to work from the 15th to the 8th to avoid the jerks. Locals have no invisible shield around them; it’s a crime of opportunity. Of course they’d prefer the cash-carrying Chinese, but those tour groups don’t take the metro. They are carted around in buses. Additionally, the Chinese groups that were targeted for their wads of cash were hit by organized criminals outside the city limits mostly.

As for who’s at work: if you start looking for only underage kids from Eastern Europe that have been written about in the press and on tv , you’ll miss all the others who have traditionally earned a living this way. Just keep your purse close to you, your wallet stashed away, the way the locals do.

Posted by
12994 posts

"...willingness to go there." Only if one allows that to be any sort of factor in deciding if a trip to France is worth the risk or chance of being picked.

Tons of international tourists (South Americans, Indians, Chinese, Russians, etc, etc) go to France in the summer, I am one of them too, was there last in June 2018. That risk of being picked in Paris is not worth bothering over.

Posted by
781 posts

I have been traveling to Paris with my wife since 2004 and was there in April,we have been lucky so far on the Metro, we always stand with my wifes pures next to me and I have my left front Pants pocket Velcroed as I am left handed.
Mike

Posted by
8848 posts

" OK, I admit, it’s my fault…I wasn’t wearing my money belt. "

Rick's statement about his Paris misadventure.

Or the fact that Rick Steves travels for months at a time, over decades, and has only been pickpocketed once could be interpreted that it isn’t a problem worth worrying about rather than it is. It’s all just how you chose to interpret the information, but that view doesn’t sell moneybelts :-)

I think a more reasonable conclusion is he was not victimized on all his other travels is because he was wearing the moneybelt.

Everyone can choose to do as they wish. They cannot complain they were not warned.
AMEN

Posted by
12994 posts

@ James... I can see upon proof reading that I was unclear. I meant to say, I am one of these tons of tourists (here USA) that go to Paris sometime in the summer, despite the pros and cons. of a summer trip.

Posted by
11973 posts

Same thought as Bets. The article says the number of reported thefts is higher. It also says there is more police presence. The two go hand in hand. More police means it's easier to report a theft so you get more reported thefts.

That said, Parisians have told me to be careful on both the Metro around major tourist stops and the RER from CDG. They themselves are careful.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If it's going to be a major inconvenience to lose something, take some basic precautions to keep it from getting lost or stolen.

Posted by
13724 posts

Fred, I understood you fine. Just kidding. Sorry about your November trip this way. Ill be around in the spring.

Posted by
3347 posts

I travel with a crossbody anti-theft Travelon purse. Zippers are clasped closed. I bought mine on Amazon for $29 last year. I keep nothing in pockets.

Posted by
2057 posts

It also says there is more police presence.

Actually, the opposite is true as noted in the original French text:

Valérie Pécresse a d'ailleurs dénoncé la baisse des effectifs de la police nationale dans les transports parisiens . . . pour regretter la suppression de 350 postes de policiers sur 1350 depuis 2015

The reported statistics indicate a rise in pickpocketing and theft pursuant to a decrease in overall police presence, almost one third of the entire staff. This reduction was initiated in 2015.

The very recent increase in presence at certain stations is not necessarily an increase in overall staffing and it may have simply been a reshuffling of the already reduced number of officers.