"Gypsy Child Thieves"

I watched an excellent piece of investigative journalism tonight on CBC's "The Passionate Eye" concerning pickpocketing and other crime in Europe. This topic seems to be discussed here on a fairly regular basis, and there are also sections covering the subject in the Guidebooks and on the Graffiti Wall. This particular story apparently won several journalism awards. The focus of the program was Romanian Gypsies and how they typically operate theft rings in European cities (Madrid, Milan and Romania were described). The program was extremely interesting and some aspects were somewhat disturbing. These are not simple "Mom & Pop" operations engaging in petty crime to support themselves, but rather large organized crime operations, originating in Romania. Children are used in the thefts as there are virtually no penalties if they're caught. Rather than describe the entire program, those that are interested can click * www.cbc.ca/documentaries/passionateeyeshowcase/2010/gypsychildthieves/ * (cut & paste the link inside the asterisks). To see the one-minute promo, click * www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/1221254309/ID=1619318829 * to watch. The entire program will probably be available on the website shortly, as full 45-minute episodes of all the shows on The Passionate Eye can be viewed. Given a few recent Threads about crime in Europe, and as all of us have to deal with this type of thing when travelling, I thought this might be of interest

Posted by Maureen
Atlanta
1357 posts

So, so sad. As one man said in the promo, these kids need to be in school, not begging and stealing.

I've read about this happening in England, not so much with Roma kids, but with locals, for the same reason, since the kids can't be punished.

BIG reminder to wear a moneybelt. I've said it before, I'll say it again, many of these pickpockets are professionals, it's what they do for a living, they know more ways of getting your stuff than you know of ways to keep them out of it.

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

I saw a documentary similar to the one you are describing operating all over western Europe. I will try to pull up the CBS episode on my computer.

Thank you for posting Ken.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11278 posts

Although these rings might be organized out of Romania, the people are "Roma", which has nothing to do with Romania. Romania was so named because it was colonized by the Roman Empire. The Roma came originally from approximately northern India. They were nomadic there and basically still are. They haven't really integrated (or been allowed to integrate) into European life.

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

Apparently, working for a living is not nor has it been, a part of their culture. I have read extensively about the Roma culture. Just as it is stated in this documentary, the men do not work. Instead they send the women out to beg and the children are sent to steal in all forms.

This link will allow you to watch about half of the documentary and then you can watch the balance after waiting 54 minutes.

I will watch the rest later.

Again, thanks for posting Ken.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Maureen,

"I've read about this happening in England"

The program stated that the people at the top have "opened up roads" in many countries to spread this activity. In addition to those covered in the program, some of the other countries mentioned were England, Ireland, Canada, U.S. and Australia.

JB,

You're very welcome! Sorry to hear that the CBC link wouldn't work for you. I've had the same problem when trying to access videos on the U.S. networks. Not sure why that is, as I can easily watch the same networks by clicking on the TV.

Lee,

Although the Roma did not originate in Romania, that seems to be where the headquarters of the criminal gangs are located, and where the children are "recruited" before being sent to various parts of Europe. A local Gypsy leader showed the Reporter the palatial mansions that the crime bosses live in.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the story was the fact that girls as young as 12 or 13 are being sold into marriage. One girl that was profiled was "married" at 13, after a fee of €7500 was paid. The reporter stated that she would earn this fee back in TWO WEEKS!

Another aspect that was shown by the hidden cameras was how aggressive they can be when confronting people at ATM's (especially the teenage boys). They often have to be physically pushed away. The usual tactic is for one to distract the person using the ATM, while the other comes from the opposite direction to grab the cash.

I'll check the CBC website later to see how many comments they've received on the story.

A good reminder to be vigilant when travelling!

Posted by Byron
Redlands, Ca, USA
358 posts

This is happening in France and the government is deporting these people back to their country of origin.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Byron,

I believe the deportations are happening in Italy as well. I've seen several stories on the Italian News regarding the destruction of Gypsy camps, and deportation back to Romania.

Posted by Grace
Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
65 posts

I agree that it is important to know about these scams. As travelers, it is this segment of the Roma population that we encounter face to face. But it is not the majority of the Roma population. I had Roma neighbors in Apache Junction, Arizona who were very hard-working people, making wooden furniture. I suggest reading the book "Bury Me Standing" if you want to know more of the Roma culture. The flamenco musicians of Granada, the families guitar makers, all Gitanos. In fact flamenco music is gypsy music.
The Gypsy Kings as children had a father who was a musician, and they later formed a band with him, but they also worked long seasons, when they were young, following the crops.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Grace, I definitely agree! One can't assume that all Roma are the same as the ones shown on the program. However, the topic seems to have resonated with many as the program won several Journalism Awards. A review stated "Quite amusing, then, as well as exciting. None of which hides that fact that it's also a fabulously thorough piece of investigative journalism, about a story that is both barely comprehensible and desperately sad." The exploitation of the children is deplorable, and it was upsetting to see some of them chained inside a shack at night after they've finished stealing for their "handlers".

Posted by Grace
Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
65 posts

I am glad that you understand my feelings, Ken. It's an important subject.