Interesting view of pickpockets in action.....

I'm not sure when this was aired as the video quality is a bit poor, but it provides some interesting glimpses of the way pickpockets and other scammers work in Europe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htmUaPAIa4I

It was a bit surprising at the end of the video to see the reaction of the Carabinieri when approached by the poor victimized tourist who was trying to report the theft. They seemed to think the situation was quite humorous.

For a look at some of the origins of the situation (if you have an hour to spare), have a look at this award winning program that was produced by BBC....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4tib__FgO8

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3949 posts

Interesting Youtube on Bob Arno. Here's another interview with him from the Huffington Post.

Posted by steve
troy, ny
345 posts

Thanks Ken! I am generally a worrier and a bit paranoid. I will probably not wear a money belt as I fear that will make my upcoming trip less fun. I just know to keep my money safe and keep my hands on my bag at all times. I carry a messenger bag that has 3 inside compartments that all zip individually. Then there is the zipper that encloses all. then there is the flap which covers and buttons everything. i keep it crossed chest and in front at all times. I understand Rick preaches money belts and that is fine, just not my thing. WHAT DO OTHERS THINK???

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12351 posts

Why open the perpetual discussion on money belts - to use or not to use? This question is beat to death weekly. It is personal preference. Do want you want. There is no right or wrong answer. How could a money belt make a trip less fun? We have used them for years - second nature. Would feel naked without. We even wear them in New York city. Just realize that whatever approach you use has some risk level.

Posted by Dave
Ventura, CA, USA
802 posts

Paranoia is in the eye of the beholder. This Forum caters to the precise demographic, in terms of age certainly, that pickpockets are interested in. I'm interested in traveling in Europe, therefore I am interested in techniques applied to the number one crime targeting me. It does not mean I'm paranoid, and it doesn't mean the OP is inciting anything. I find stuff like this fascinating, not scary; traveler or not.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1525 posts

The video is instructive in one sense; it shows how naive some rubes can be. In each case, the "victim" was practically begging for it and frankly, I don't feel all that sorry for them.

You let a street person stick a flower into your lapel? And then you let them stick their hand in your wallet?

You wear a fanny pack with your valuables and then let a street person shove a cardboard placard into your belly?

You put a wallet into your back pocket EVER? (to say nothing of a crowded subway?

You buy a cell phone on the street in Naples?

No one needs to take a course in how to protect themselves from pick-pockets. Nor do they really need "equipment" like special pouches or money belts. They just need a tiny dose of wisdom, and to shed the American with more money than good sense naiveté.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7355 posts

"...The video is instructive in one sense; it shows how naive some rubes can be. In each case, the "victim" was practically begging for it and frankly, I don't feel all that sorry for them...."

Wow, talk about blame the victim. Regardless of whether one uses a money belt, puts stuff in their front or back pocket etc.....nobody "deserves" to be robbed under any circumstance. IMO there is little one can do to prevent it. It's all a matter of cutting your losses so your trip won't be ruined. The real naivete is thinking you're Superman, and that you are smarter than every thief out there. Travel enough and it happens to everybody eventually.

Posted by MarieB
120 posts

There are some posters who report they have never lost anything nor had their belongings stolen or picked. I have not had anything lost, stolen or forgotten either but realizing, regardless of every single precaution one may take, there is that slight chance for anything anywhere.

It is galling of the thieves to make a living off another person's money - stealing and scamming. The reaction of the Carabinieri was very unprofessional regardless if anything could be done at that point.

A bit of compassion is warranted for those travelers who get scammed because of trusting too much; not being totally aware for whatever reason. Putting the accountability on the thieves is more warranted.

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
729 posts

I agree that empathy is the way to go. No one deserves to get robbed/pick-pocketed, and the reaction of the local authorities is certainly allowing these practices to continue. Would it be too farfetched to think that perhaps they get a cut of the "profits"!?

I guess the way I look at it is that I would like to reduce my risk of being a victim and take a little bit of control back, and taking certain precautions that are very easy and low impact help reduce my chances and gives me more power in these instances. I am not naive to think that I am immune, but if a pick-pocketer had to pick between a money belt, a fanny pack, a purse, inside pockets of a messenger bag, or a front pocket wallet, I think I can identify which one falls where on the path of least resistance.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1775 posts

Sorry Michael and Marie but I'm with Randy on this one. Do I blame the victim for the crime? NO, of course not, I blame the robber/pickpocket/scammer. Unlike Randy I do have some sympathy for the victim and their losses. But I must say, when you travel somewhere it is your responsibility to do some research about where you're going, read the guidebooks, ask questions of experts and fellow travelers. If you ignore their advice and basically make yourself a target, then you have to share some of the blame, not for the crime itself but for your behaviors that increased the odds of being a victim of said crime. I find it hard to believe that anyone is still so naive as to think "it won't happen to me" - you'd have to be living under a rock not to have seen or heard any of the warnings.

I also agree with Randy that common sense and awareness is more important than any particular equipment you might carry (slash-proof purses, RFID blocking wallets, etc).

Posted by MarieB
120 posts

Right Nancy, but in other threads, when this subject comes up, I have often written that common sense prevails as well as awareness and (as much as possible) not making yourself a victim.

I never advocate for anyone carrying a wallet or money in a pants pocket. Still, one or two posters have said they do just that. It is their choice. Taking reasonable, sensible precautions is key while traveling anywhere.

Despite all that, the victim should have some compassion thrown their way (I read what you wrote on this) regardless of how the theft happened. I am sure it must be a nightmare to have anything stolen; especially in a foreign country when there are so many obvious obstacles.

Posted by MarieB
120 posts

@Maryam "but if a pick-pocketer had to pick between a money belt, a fanny pack, a purse, inside pockets of a messenger bag, or a front pocket wallet, I think I can identify which one falls where on the path of least resistance." ----- True.

"and the reaction of the local authorities is certainly allowing these practices to continue. Would it be too farfetched to think that perhaps they get a cut of the "profits"!?" ------- There may be good and bad in a lot of professions.

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
527 posts

I am aware of the debate about whether or not we are "overwarning" people about pickpockets and scams and making them paranoid. The best thing about this video-it shows that you can PREDICT many of the places/situations where you will be pickpocketed and who will pickpocket you. So no need to be paranoid-be AWARE and do your best to avoid those situations. If someone comes up to talk to you on the street, keep your hand on your purse/fanny pack, etc . But you can still talk to them and not run away screaming( like Emma from London experienced) because they might actually be trying to help you. On the metro, scan the crowd and look for the people who are trying to scan you, etc.

Also, I would like to point out the many Italians who stepped into warn people- including that awesome woman who kept yelling at the people! Overall, I think there are more honest people than dishonest people.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7355 posts

"...If you ignore their advice and basically make yourself a target, then you have to share some of the blame, not for the crime itself but for your behaviors that increased the odds of being a victim of said crime..."

If you're saying that every tourist who gets robbed is arrogantly ignoring/disregarding advice or not doing any research on the subject...that's ridiculous. Nobody is perfect, some folks are slower to recognize scams than others, and when distractions occur you may have been robbed before you can even put your guard up. The suggestion that all travelers turn into some sort Jason Bourne type creature who instantly reacts and defends against robbers like some sort of cyborg is not realistic.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1775 posts

"If you're saying that every tourist who gets robbed is arrogantly ignoring/disregarding advice or not doing any research on the subject...that's ridiculous"

I said no such thing, and I'd appreciate your not putting words in my mouth.

"The suggestion that all travelers turn into some sort Jason Bourne type creature who instantly reacts and defends against robbers like some sort of cyborg is not realistic."

Where did this come from? Nobody has suggested anything like this on this thread.

"Nobody is perfect, some folks are slower to recognize scams than others, and when distractions occur you may have been robbed before you can even put your guard up"

I perfectly understand this. If someone takes all precautions and gets victimized because of a distraction situation (such as a previous poster on another thread who admitted that he should have been more aware), then I agree there was nothing more they could do. It is a risk of traveling that everyone is subject to.
I was referring to people who are advised to wear a money belt, leave valuables in a hotel safe, don't put your wallet in your back pocket, etc but ignore the advice and insist on wearing a backpack on their back because "it's more comfortable there than in front" or wear a fanny pack on their back because "it's what I do at home", or don't wear a money belt because "it's uncomfortable" and then cry because someone stole from them in a crowded train station. I'm saying that these behaviors just make it easier for a potential thief and you're more likely to get victimized if you make it so easy for them - might as well paint a target on your back..

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1525 posts

Just to be clear, I'm talking about the video link in the header and NOT general traveler behavior (unless of course. your idea of general traveler behavior matches the video). You don't need to be a Jason Bourne ninja to know not to put a wallet in your back pocket or to know not to let a anyone else rifle through your wallet to "help" you. Sure, those people don't "deserve" to be victimized, but their naive choices facilitated the potential for theft. As for the ridiculous fool who buys a cell phone from some stranger on the street in Naples - yes, they DID deserve to be taken. No pity there. It's a non-lethal way of "nature (attempting to) weed out the stupid".

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3739 posts

I have some sympathy for the victims whether due to their negligence, ignorance, or stupidity. None whatsoever for the scammer/pickpocket. The problem is that you can't jack them up even if you could. Wearing a waist belt may make one more of a target, I wear one but no mony or important "stuff" such as credit cards, Passport is there..

That string scam at Sacre Coure I have seen, was tried on me but realised what was happening after the initial surprise, and kept walking. Then I watched them. Others who were targeted were even polite and nice to these scammers...hard to believe.

Posted by MarieB
120 posts

The topic of defending oneself was sort of mentioned before. What about real people who are police persons, military, navy seals, delta force, black belts, etc, etc. These people are all highly trained - especially Delta Force and the Navy Seals - they are considered to be super human - elite - of sorts because of the amount of training involved and the special assignments they are sent on. Do they not exercise what they know out of instinct? But they probably need to restrain or refrain themselves because of their specialized training.


In the video Michael posted about the girl v guy pickpocket - in the train station, a staffer witnessed what she did but did nothing. 0-0

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7355 posts

"...These people are all highly trained - especially Delta Force and the Navy Seals - they are considered to be super human - elite - of sorts because of the amount of training involved and the special assignments they are sent on..."

I know a guy who both a green beret and special forces, saw action in both Iraq wars and Afganistan. He's about as close as you can come to being a real life Jason Bourne....he's been pick pocketed! In Barcelona of course.

In regards to the girl v guy video, the first half is filmed at Grand Central the second half at Penn Station, so it's really an experiment on how upstate NY/Connecticut commuters vs Jersey/Long Island commuters would react. That would be too explosive to analyze;)

Posted by MarieB
120 posts

Gee, I guess that is a point proven too - anyone can be taken.

But my point (in conjunction with people being picked) was geared more toward a defense against the perps. I wonder, would those specialized people be held (more) accountable for defending their body or property forcefully (out of instinct)?

According to the video posted, the influx of children brazenly thieving is unbelievable.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5008 posts

The pickpocketing girls with the babies on the bus in Rome were gipsies (you can tell from their physical traits, their attire and their heavily accented poor command of the Italian language). The ones selling flowers and rosemary in Spain are gipsies too.

So rule number one stay away from the gipsies and if they try to approach you send them away firmly (or with brute force if necessary). You certainly don't let them put their hands or their card boards anywhere near your body.

Rule number two, you don't get on crowded buses or subways. Most European city centers are very walkable and taxis are not that expensive for short distances. Also there are ways to get to places without using the most crowded buses. There are other ways to get to the Vatican from Termini that don't include the crowded no. 64.

Rule number three, you don't buy anything from a Neapolitan in the street, no matter how good the deal might appear.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3056 posts

While some people do get the warnings to protect their valuables, many, MANY people do not. I'd venture a guess that most people visiting Europe are almost completely unaware of the various scams and pickpocket warnings or only have a vague awareness that it occurs (and know little about the details or how to protect themselves). Hence, the thieves seem to do a good business.

Therefore, it is really irresponsible to think of most victims as "getting what they deserve" or having little sympathy for them. I sometimes think that veteran travelers here forget that they've been doing it for years/decades and most visitors here are planning their first or second trip.

Case in point: I recently traveled with someone living in a place where such theft is unthinkable. He put his phone on a café table right along the sidewalk (I didn't realize it or would have warned him). Sure enough, someone came along with a "paper" for him to look at. He didn't leave when I shooed him and I didn't realize the phone was there. Thankfully the waiter saw him and shooed him away before he got the phone. After that close call, he was much more careful and I gave him the standard warnings. But he was totally ignorant of the concept up until then.

Posted by Kathy
United States
692 posts

Aside from all the usual mistakes tourists make by not protecting their valuables, they often have this erroneous idea of what a pickpocket looks like. They clutch their goods tightly around the obviously disadvantaged but don't do the same when the person next to them is wearing a suit and tie; first mistake.

But some of those obviously disadvantaged individuals - someone referred to them as "gipsies" earlier in the thread - are victims themselves. There is an enormous problem with persons being trafficked under false pretenses, such as the promise of a good job, only to find themselves the virtual prisoners of crime rings. They are expected to turn a profit for their "bosses" or face beatings themselves and/or to their families. It's very sad - especially when it's children. Just one example:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/europe/article3928037.ece