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Pickpockets/crime

I've read a lot of people talk about pickpockets and wearing money belts, etc. I thought it might be interesting to get a comparison to say Boston or NYC or any big city in the U.S. For people who have been to Italy, is pickpocketing/crime more of an issue there than in U.S. big cities or about the same or less?

Posted by
8906 posts

Any city, anywhere in the world that that attracts a lot of tourists with a lot of money in their wallets has pickpockets. I know people who have had their wallets stolen at Disney World. Are some places worse then other? Of Course. Your best defense anywhere you travel, is to assume you will get robbed, keep just a day's spending money in your wallet/purse and put everything else in a money belt or in-room safe.

Posted by
20718 posts

Not an easy question to answer with proof positive. The general perception is that petty theft -- pickpockets, snatch and run, etc. -- is higher in Europe than most US cities. Muggings (use of force, strong arm, weapon, etc.) is less in Europe. About a year ago a travel magazine had an article indicating that 1 in 4 AMERICAN tourist would be robbed. That means 3 out of 4 don't have problems. But the statistics were weak from some Interpol data because it is an under reported crime. My personal experience would support the 1 in 4 or less but am sure others would argue for more. We have traveled in some of the great pickpocket capitals of the world for nearly 300 days in the past 15 years and never had a problem. We do take reasonable precautions and that includes a money belt AND clothing with zipper pockets, and watch our behavior in public areas so as not to call undo attention to ourselves. Just back from nearly 30 days in and around Rome (fourth trip to rome) and no problem

Posted by
711 posts

We just returned from a month in Italy and had no problems with pickpocketing or crime. We were in Venice, Tuscany, Umbria , and the Cinque Terre. We did both use moneybelts, and my husband took precautions with his cameras.

Posted by
710 posts

It is important to take precautions. We found out the hard way when my husband wallet was stolen while we were getting on a train from the Zurich airport the first day of a vacation. When we went to the police station the first thing they handed him was a phamplet in 4 languages say beware of pickpockets.

Posted by
1589 posts

It generally comes down to situational awareness and common sense. One of our occasional travel games is watching inattentive/naive American tourist get fleeced. Yes, we do try to help if the situation permits. I would say that we see more overt pickpockets in major European cities then in NYC.

Stay alert and statistically you will do fine. Have a great trip.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for all the responses. I've read all the safety tips out there, I guess I was just wondering more if you prepare for Italy like you would if you were going to any big city in the U.S.

Posted by
1589 posts

In general, yes. You will find the subways in Rome, Paris and London to be more crowded then a typical ride in the NYC system. Of these three, we have found Rome to have more active pickpockets.

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Stacy,

We just got back from 2-weeks in Italy. I wore only a moneybelt while in transit from city to city, as I planned to use a credit card and limited cash while out. It seemed less stressful (keep photo copies of your credit cards in U.S. AND with luggage for easy cancelling.)

However, my day bag was snatched while patio dining at Campo Fiori in Rome. Luckily, my wife ran him down, yelled, and he gave it back. Wouldn't do that in the U.S.! I guess we assume Italians aren't armed like Americans.

Good luck!

Jonah

Posted by
20718 posts

I always find these discussions kind of interesting because they don't seem to match our experiences. How do you see more overt pickpockets? In fact how do you even recognize a pickpocket? In all of our travels I have never seen a pickpocket but not sure what I am looking for either. Can someone give me a description so I can recognize one the next time?

Posted by
1449 posts

regarding Jonah's experience, I read (probably on the Graffiti Wall) that when dining put your leg thru a loop of your daybag's strap up to your thigh. Just sit on the strap, the bag isn't going anywhere!

Posted by
192 posts

My husband and I (both in our 60's) have traveled to many cities in the USA over the years and have never been pickpocketed, robbed, mugged, etc.

We spent 4 days in Rome last year and husband's camera was stolen right off of his bod. He had it inside the camera case, which was zipped, and the case strap was cross-ways on him, (with the camera case in front of him), and the camera case was completely under his jacket, which was also zipped. A man 'bumped into' husband and was gone in a flash.

Those guys are good at what they do.

Posted by
5 posts

Just got back from a trip to Italy and Switzerland. My wallet was lifted from my purse with my purse on my shoulder. I couldn't zip it up all the way but I held it close to my body and I was never aware of anyone around me (this was at the train station in Milan). I will admit I was distracted trying to find food for my boys with a limited amount of time between train connections, and that was my undoing. I had become a bit lax after traveling through several train stations. I kicked myself all day and what a hassle to call the credit card company and bank!
I had to laugh when they asked me if I reported it to the police - like that would have done any good since I never saw it happen - it was just missing from my bag but I knew it had been there.

Watch out for beggar-looking children and others who lurk around and sit down next to your bags when you are waiting for the train. We felt several times like our stuff was being eyed. Stay alert - don't learn the hard way like me!

Posted by
934 posts

Wearing a moneybelt is a little like life insurance.I have life insurance but I have never used it.But when I need it its nice to have.Moneybelts are the same.

Posted by
576 posts

We saw a commotion on an escalator at a Paris Metro, where someone behind "fell" and knocked people in front of them down. Then there was all kind of commotion about about a wallet, then a chase, but everyone was yelling in French. On a separate occasion, a friend of mine, a Spanish physician, had her purse nabbed in the subway she uses everyday. My point is, pickpockets target ANYONE with their guard down..not just American tourists! This past weekend, here in upscale Bend, OR, good Samaritans caught a purse snatcher in a grocery store parking lot and held him until police arrived. It happens EVERYWHERE!

Posted by
3 posts

Stay alert of your surroundings and you will be safe. There were a lot of police walking around the shopping areas of Florence. Very safe.

Posted by
2 posts

I'm from the Boston area, and, to be blunt, there is no comparison. Pickpockets are a problem in Italy and you need to be especially careful and vigilant. On my first trip to Rome I got nailed on the infamous 64 bus. In Florence, I swung around because I felt a "presence" at my rear and knocked a Gypsy woman on her butt. In neither case was my wallet in my back pocket. When I got on the Naples train in Rome, this fellow followed me onto the train and proceeded to brush against me. Repeatedly. I stepped into a compartment and gave him a look that could kill. He left.

There was a video clip on MSNBC today that showed Milan pickpockets stalking their prey (shot from an office overlooking the train station square). These thieves were not subtle at all.

So, DO go to Italy. It is absolutely wonderful and I am currently planning my next trip. Be aware and especially careful in crowded tourist areas.

Posted by
49 posts

Yes, pickpocketing seems to be much more of an issue in Italy and Spain that it is in the US. This seems to be a career calling and some of them are very good at their profession.

I was on my 5th trip to Europe in May. After traveling in Rome-Naples-Florence without incident I let my guard down in tiny Vernazza and of course this is where a young girl (yes she was a gypsy) emptied my small purse on a jam packed train.
(Cash only, she left the credit cards and my passport) The stationmaster sighed and said it happened all day, every day.

The friends who we traveled with on part of our trip had a more serious encounter---their 19 year old son was robbed at knifepoint and physically assaulted
near their Pantheon area hotel in Rome in late May.

Of course, the majority of travelers do not get pickpocketd and I had traveled a total of about 7 months on European trains before it happened to me.

Posted by
800 posts

For the poster who asked for a description of pickpockets - be careful of people who "crowd you". Our two attempts were in Rome on crowded transport. First was the bus to the Vatican. Woman stood very close to my husband and put her hand in his pocket. He was suspicious due to her closeness so was ready and clamped down on her wrist. She yelled at him and left. 2nd time was on the subway going to the airport. Woman with young child (about 6 or 7) pushed into me very hard getting on the subway. Immediately other passengers started yelling and we saw the boy's hand inside my purse (which held nothing of interest). Mother yelled at child and they left at the next stop. Teenage friend of mine got "bumped" by a woman in Florence who made a big show of apoligizing. Teenager realize her wallet was taken and tried to run after the woman, to no avail.

For comparison - had wallet taken while living in LA. Unknown person entered several offices and stole wallets from purses in desks.

Posted by
466 posts

It's no worse then any big city here in the USA. Just be aware of your surroundings and you will be fine. Be especially aware of the gypsies (the girls with long hair begging for money or have lots of children around them (they do the dirty work). If they ask you if you speak english, just keep walking they will not follow you! Have fun and don't worry just be aware

Posted by
22 posts

I too have had first hand experience in having my pocket picked on the subway in Rome. They took about $70. All my fault! I knew better than to put my money in my pocket when I was carring a backpack that I kept in front of me at all times. I was fortunate. My passport was also in that pocket which they didn't take. My advice....use the money belt or keep it in your backpact which you keep in front of you at all times. Other than that I had a great time.

Posted by
5 posts

Two of the main places that I would be careful are metros in Rome and the metro that one takes to get to the Vatican, mainly because it's overly-crowded [and when I say overly crowded, I mean barely feels like enough air to breathe!]. I felt my back pockets being searched and I couldn't tell who it was. Fortunately there wasn't anything in there though. My 2 friends that I was with had the same thing happen. Nothing was stolen, but they attempted, and that's all that matters.

Posted by
4841 posts

I can't take complete credit for the comment, as I saw it on here some time ago, but thought it was one of the most intelligent things said about this topic: No, I do not think that Europe is any better or worse regarding theft/pickpockets, and I do not typically take moneybelt precautions when in large US cities. BUT, when I travel in Europe, I generally have much more cash/valuable items on me, and the impact of losing these items is much greater in Europe than here. Basically, I get my wallet stolen today here in the US, I call my credit cards in, and I can get my DL replaced same day, and go to my bank to get money. In Europe, much more difficult to get my passport replaced, get money, CC replacements, ATM card, all requiring lots of valuable vacation time to remedy, maybe ruining my vacation. So, yes, I take extra precautins in Europe, because the implications of the theft are much greater.

Posted by
241 posts

Paul, that is a great comment you made. The IMPLICATIONS are greater. Therefore more caution is warranted.

Posted by
1003 posts

Thanks for that link Doug. But instead of making me nervous, that link makes me realize how EASY it would be to prevent those things from happening!! The person with the backpack could have avoided it by either locking the zippers or even putting a paper clip on them, or by carrying it a different way. The person with the messenger bag just made me LAUGH because of how easy it is to carry that bag like that not only in front of you but with the flap towards the body. I think the lesson to be learned is: yes, it is definitely a concern, but yes, it can be avoided or at very least greatly minimized by taking some very very easy and minor precautions.

Posted by
19 posts

I saw that video on the news. Funniest thing I ever saw. Cant you see the shadow of the person pretty much ridding your butt!?! It mad me laugh. But yeah I totally agree, its really easy to do little things so youre not such an easy target as those people. Now I know what to look out for when I arrive at the train station in a few days.

Posted by
1003 posts

Trung, I can understand it because the other day, I flew in and out of Texas in the span of a day. I was so tired when I arrived at both airports that I'm sure I could've been off-guard. I know when I arrive somewhere, I am concerned about having everything, not leaving stuff, knowing where I'm going, figuring out all this stuff, blahblah. Add to that being in Europe, not speaking the language, never having been there before, and I understand it would be easy to not notice someone behind you or whatever. That's why I've been "practicing" with my messenger bag.... when I go do my errands here stateside, I have been taking the bag with me and holding it in the way I want to hold it when I am overseas, so I am used to it and by the time I arrive it will be second-nature. It's taking no time and energy to do this, and I am getting used to it already. If anything, like I said, that video just shows how easy this is to prevent in most cases!

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks to this site and trip advisor, we just returned from Rome and no problems with pickpockets. However, we were ready: money belt and locks on back pack. We were also vigilant about not letting people get in our space and walking with purpose. With due caution, it was no problem.