Posted by Roy
Auburn, AL
803 posts

Those are actually good tips from a local writer. I would add one more: Plan your day so that you avoid buses and the Metro during rush hour. The more packed the train or bus, the harder it is to guard against pickpockets.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

My favorite is the 'Bonus' tip. :) Also, someone mentioned carrying a cheap, empty decoy wallet. If the thieves think they got you already, perhaps not likely to strike again in the same Metro car. I mean, it's not like they're stopping right there to check what's inside before they move to their next victim. Even better, write a note to the pickpocket and put it in the most obvious pocket clipped to some fake (Monopoly) money. The pickpocket gets a surprise and you get a laugh. I spotted a pickpocket on the platform in the Paris Metro once. He was so close in front of me I could have reached into his back pocket. I was sorely tempted, but decided it was best to control myself. Keep it fun.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3409 posts

Rose says "... write a note to the pickpocket..." Well, what language would one write it in? French? Probably not because a lot of these small time thieves are Eastern Europeans. So, which Eastern European language are you fluent enough in to write a note?

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

" I spotted a pickpocket on the platform in the Paris Metro once. He was so close in front of me I could have reached into his back pocket. I was sorely tempted, but decided it was best to control myself." Rose,
How did you know he was a pickpocket. They usually don't wear signs. If you had seen him in action, wouldn't you have done something about it?

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
649 posts

...Also, someone mentioned carrying a cheap, empty decoy wallet. .... Probably one of the most ill advised things anyone could do !!! Why ,on earth, would you bait someone into a confrontation for the sake of it ? Staying benign is your safest ploy . Having lived and worked my whole life in NYC , the tips about avoiding pickpockets in Paris don't differ much , if at all , from the same techniques in Manhattan . A wallet in a pocket which is obvious to a potential pickpocket risks a physical confrontation ,why would you do that ? Using a moneybelt , keeping clear of overcrowded trains ,and other sensible tips are the best answers . I've encountered the phony wallet ploy before , and that puts your personal safety at great risk !!!

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Now that everyone has jumped all over ever phrase in my post - GEEZ! Lighten up! The idea of leaving a note for the pickpocket is Rick Steves own idea from one of his old videos or lectures (can't remember which). Can you spell JOKE! The pickpocket I saw in front of me in the Metro - I actually watched him reach into the back pocket of the man next to and slightly in front of him. Me putting my hand in his pocket - A JOKE! I thought it but didn't act on it. I looked around for someone I could report it to but the guy was off out of there so quick it was pointless. If you've never seen professional pickpockets in action - I have spotted them several times in NYC, Paris, and at the market in Sarlat - they are not looking for confrontation. They work quickly and silently, making their way through a crowd. Except for the teams that are more aggressively pulling off the very visible scams mentioned in the post that started this thread.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
649 posts

.... they are not looking for confrontation.... That is largely true , but I think it's wise to keep one or two things in mind : While it is generally accepted that violent crime ( like muggings ) occur with far less frequency in Europe than in America ,people who engage in things like pickpocketing are ,to some degree , desperate . Rich people don't engage in this sort of activity ( at least not at this level , White collar crime is another story ) What level of desperation besets a pickpocket is anyone's guess , but do you really want to test it in that way ? At best you would be confronting a somewhat unpredictable result . Don't be overly sensitive . I , for one , didn't take your remark about pickpocketing the pickpocket as anything but a joke , and I don't think the other posters did either .

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Tom, Regarding pickpockets in Paris, there are some significant warnings on government websites, such as these from the U.S. State Department. A few quotes: > "The majority of crimes directed against foreign visitors, including U.S. citizens, involve pick-pocketing, residential break-ins, bicycle theft, and other forms of theft with minimal violence. However, as in any big city, robberies involving physical assault do occur in Paris and other major urban areas." > "Crimes against visitors are generally crimes of opportunity, though these crimes are more likely to involve violence on the street late at night or when the victim detects the theft and resists the criminal." The full text is on the website at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1116.html#crime And this from the U.K. government website: >"Thieves and pickpockets operate on the Paris underground and R E R lines. There have been several victims of serious assault on the R E R line B, which serves Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports and Paris Gare du Nord Eurostar terminus. There have also been serious assaults on RER line D, which serves the Stade de France." The problems seem to be getting worse, given the fact that the staff at the Louvre walked off the job recently to protest the number of assaults that have been occurring on people that work there. The bottom line - I'll be visiting Paris again this year and don't have any concerns about the current situation. However, an increased level of vigilance and "situational awareness" seems prudent, so that's what I'll be doing. Cheers!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

They'll get you when a bunch of people funnel down into a small area, like at the bottom of steps. Pickpockets operate in packs, and will often crowd you, and make you stumble after bumping into you. My wife always walks behind me. I carry no billfolds. They're just after cash. And I'm not courteous or nice to anyone in tight quarters. It's nice to be 6'3" and 235 lbs., as nobody really messes with me.
What I'm really saying is be proactive in your safety, and recognize how you can be put in danger of pickpockets. A few steps taken can make'em find an easier mark.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

@Rose, The scenario described in the article you posted is much the same as that described in the CBC (The Passionate Eye) program titled Gypsy Child Thieves. Many of thieves are not stealing because they need something to eat, but rather because stealing is the lifestyle and career path they prefer. However, there are victims (mostly children), and they're the ones that are providing funds to build the ostentatious mansions shown in the article. I'm not sure if the program will be broadcast again (they also provide 30-day internet access after every broadcast), but you can see the promo at this link: www.cbc.ca/player/Passionate+Eye+Promos/ID/1619318829/ Hopefully I won't have "theft problems" in any of the countries I'll be visiting this year. Cheers!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

"...not courteous or nice...in tight quarters." I agree, since the chance for a pickpocket to operate is real with the potential for you as the victim. Give the impression that you mean to be confrontational. Using a dummy wallet is a good idea.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Thanks, Ken. Yes, the children are always the victims, and that's the tragedy of it. Young children being taught and - for many - irreversibly learning that crime and taking from others can be a lucrative way of life, just as they did in Charles Dickens' time ('Oliver'). Somehow when we read it in a novel or see it in a film or on the stage as a musical it's 'entertainment' and we sympathize with those who are the true 'victims'. But when it continues mostly unabated in our own time, and we are confronted with it on the street and it threatens our safety and impinges on the enjoyment level of our holidays, it takes on a different dimension and scorn arises.

Posted by David
Walnut Creek
69 posts

I just returned from a RS Paris+France tour. While there, my wife's watch (which wasn't even all that expensive, secured by a stainless steel clasp, but not hidden by a long sleeve) was stolen on a Metro train so crowded she could hardly breathe. Lessons learned: 1) the day we left, BBC World had a short piece indicating that Paris and Rome are now tied behind Barcelona as "the major European city with the biggest pickpocketing problem." EU countries in general have issues with young thieves authorities repeatedly release to the custody of parents, who are the ones behind the thievery in the first place. 2) On the bright side, the measures we took to secure our really important valuables (money belt; zipped inner jacket pockets; backpack, iPhone case and purse zippers secured with safety pins and further hidden under arms, jackets or turned against bodies) worked - even on the horrendously subway car. 3) If you are not in a hurry and you see that the train is packed, try waiting for the next train; even during rush hour, the next train might not be quite as crowded. If you can, plan your day so that you do not need to be on the Metro during the most crowded times of the day - hotel staff or your guide should be able to tell you when those times are. 4) don't take things you don't need on the Metro - that's self-evident; unfortunately a watch does not fall into the "things not needed" category. If we'd had to do things over again, we'd have waited for the next train and she'd have slipped the watch into an inner pocket while we waited. 5) regardless of what Rick says, it is NOT necessarily easy to replace things in a foreign country. My wife's back-up watch saved us from having to find a replacement after all the shops had closed for the day.

Posted by Susan
Atlanta, Ga, USA
1463 posts

We have seen this on Paris Metro several times: a well dressed man (or woman) has a coat draped over one arm and the hidden hand is fast at work picking pockets, back packs, etc. on the crowded metro. Doors open and off the culprit runs. Ignore the gold ring offers and avoid the cardboard box thing ( mainly Italy).

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Also on certain buses in Rome that run between the main tourist spots. Very well-dressed men in Armani suits and Gucci shoes carrying equally expensive briefcases making them look quite respectable, like a professor or civil servant. An attractive, well-dressed, well-groomed woman swept past me near the luggage carousel at Fiumicino airport last winter. I felt a sensation like a feather across my back, which caused me to turn and look at her. She glanced back at me for a second. Then I watched her from behind a column as she continued to move in and out of the crowd while people were distracted trying to find and cope with their baggage. No impact to me -- all my valuables were securely in a moneybelt under 3 layers of clothing and securely safety-pinned in 2 places.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3409 posts

So, Rose, you tell us that last winter at Fiumicino (Rome)airport "An attractive, well-dressed, well-groomed woman swept past me at the luggage carousel..." whom you intimate you suspect was a pickpocket. To be in the luggage pick-up area she must have been an air passenger. Do you really think she was a pickpocket? If so, she is one very sophisticated & well-heeled pickpocket, don't you think?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

It's the new generation of pickpockets They spend gobs to sit in a tube for hours on the off chance that they'll find a chance to swipe something and not get caught by all the cameras. Tossing feathers is the new distraction of the new generation of pickpockets who spend gobs to . . . .

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

I feel the sarcasm in the previous two replies. I have no idea how she got into the baggage claim area. I only described my experience and what I felt and observed. Take it or leave it. She was definitely not behaving like a person who was there to pick up suitcases off the carousel. I watched her circulate through the crowd for several minutes (regrettably my bag was one of the last to come down, perhaps due to very early check-in at my departure airport).

Posted by David
Walnut Creek
69 posts

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2013/06/paris-safety-tips/comment-page-1/#comments
David Lebovitz, an American (chef) expat living in Paris has some tips for avoiding pickpockets. His tips are not new to anyone who's kept up with the tips here - with the possible exception of being very careful on the RER B nonexpress line, but the comments are very interesting (start with the later ones and move to the older ones) - there are some experiences that are real eye-openers and some good lessons/advice to be had in those comments.

Posted by Mona
Santa Barbara
231 posts

We are currently in Paris and took the Metro yesterday after a long walk down the hill from our apartment. We had just gotten on the Metro at Chatalet and were not yet to the Hotel d'Ville stop when the man standing near the door behind me started yelling loudly in French at two teen aged girls. He was with his wife and daughter, they all had a shopping bag but the man was wearing a front/fanny pack and one of the two teen aged girls had started to unzip his front/fanny pack. Everyone just remained calm while the man yelled loudly in French at her. At the next stop, the 2 girls got off. I'm thankful for this old thread because we decided to be extra cautious this year in Paris, where we are spending 2+ weeks.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

Glad you brought this back up. We saw several over the last few days in Paris, but never witnessed the act. Young man with a sheet of newspaper in the left had to cover the working right hand, groups of girls dressed like anyone else moving from car to car at each stop. Noticed the guy by the way he rushed up behind some American girls and then went a different direction. I thought he liked the girls, but my Parisian husband spotted the piece of news paper and understood. It's a jungle out there ;)

Posted by Denny
Columbus, OH, USA
733 posts

The plane was about to depart when I realized I had lost my shoulder bag. The boarding gate sent me back to the passenger boarding security area. An agent overheard my frantic description of the bag and called me over, "Here is a man who wants to return the bag he found." He was in line to enter the passenger area and reached out to give me my bag. Not allowed, but after going through security he handed it to grateful me. Glanced in, saw wallets, iPhones, iPad, the works. I thank him profusely, hand him $20, run back just in time to board my plane, discover $600 cash has gone up in thin air faster than my aircraft. Why was he in the passenger area? Why did he leave? And return? Or give me all the rest of the stuff back at all? Who knows. Don't care. It all seemed weird at the time but it wasn't my clearest moment. I don't think thieves have a great deal of respect for airport rules.

Posted by Diane
New York, NY, USA
60 posts

Two weeks ago: 1) Eiffel Tower: Dad feels somone brush close to him and grabs his wallet as it comes out of his pocket.(Most things were in neck pouch but this convinced us to move everything but a few euros and the metro tickets to neck pouches) 2) Arc De Triomphe area: woman approaches my 16 year old for help reading a note - Dad and a local woman yell to him to keep moving. The local woman went directly to the woman and yelled in English and French to get away. No loses. 3) Another woman on our tour of Normandy had her I Phone stolen at the Eifel tower. Would like to think the man returning the bag in the last post was the honest man and someone else had stolen the cash and left the gadgets.
Anyway - them of this tread - no place is secure and you must keep your valubles close to your body

Posted by Denny
Columbus, OH, USA
733 posts

I wanted to think so too! But the impromptu round table in my section of economy class promptly declared me an idiot. And I recognized the guy returning it as someone who was at the coffee shop as well. Your last line says it all, Diane. For years I have made a conscious effort to always wrap that bag around my body, arm or leg. This time I propped it up right at eye level on a chest-high coffee shop shelf, and truly said to myself, "There. You can't possibly forget it now." The story continues above. But lesson learned, I hope.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

I have no doubt that there's a serious problems with pickpockets, thieves and scammers in Paris (and elsewhere). However, I just returned from there last week and had no problems at all, including in the very tightly packed "scrum" in front of the Mona Lisa or on the Metro or RER. During the time I was viewing La Gioconda, I felt a couple of light touches on my backside, which could have been just from the crowded conditions or it could have been "probing" for a wallet. I did have a wallet with cash and one credit card, but it was located elsewhere and attached to my belt with a steel chain. I also had an iPhone, two P&S Cameras and other valuables hidden in various places, but no problems with those either. Perhaps I project a really miserable persona or one of poverty which discourages the scammers? I saw lots of peddlars, selling cheap tin copies of the Eiffel Tower and other "trinkets", but wasn't approached even once by them. There seemed to be a heavy Police presence especially at the Eiffel Tower, and also soldiers patrolling with assault rifles, so perhaps that put a damper on the criminal activity? Cheers!