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Paris Train Pickpocket in Training

Thought I would share a story of an attempted pickpocketing in Paris involving what I think was a training exercise.

I was on the Metro. At the Concorde station two young girls (12-14) got on accompanied by an adult man (about 40). I was close to the door, and after it closed I was standing up with the adult man in front of me and the girls in between me and the door.

I am hyper-vigilent, to the point that I enjoy finding pickpockets in crowds. As soon as the girls and man got on I recognized the tell-tale signs (they look like... ahem... well... gypsies. More importantly, look for thrift store looking clothes and large "flat"purses).

After the door closed I felt a gentle tug in my pocket, I looked down and one of the girls had positioned her purse over my pocket (my pockets are all empty, I use a neck wallet). I looked right at her and smiled, she immediately pulled back. At the next stop a few seconds later the girls got off leaving the man next to me. The girls got back in the same car but in the door behind me. As soon as we got underway an older man (also American) had grabbed on by the scruff of her neck and was yelling at her for trying to steal from him. He was shaking her and yelling. None of the Paris people on the train even really looked up or acknowledged the situation (that part was surprising, here in America everyone would be glued to the drama). The adult man with them who was still next to me didn't move and got a very anxious look on his face. He didn't take his eyes off the girls. I felt that if necessary he would have physically intervened. At the next stop they all three got off and disappeared.

My impression from this was that the girl was probably being trained on how to pickpocket, and wasn't "smooth" yet.

Posted by
1724 posts

Just curious given what happened why not yell at the girl to alert others instead of smile

Really not trying to make you feel bad and thank you for sharing this very descriptive story

Most sad fact is most riders did not care rather than rally around the victim or potential victim
Similar pickpockets would not do so well in major U.S. city subways, that I am certain

Posted by
7658 posts

"Most sad fact is most riders did not care..."

That is an assumption, an incorrect one imo based on not understanding French culture. Part of travel is to understand that every culture is different and not to judge another culture based on American cultural norms.

My 11 yo and I were at the harbor in Naples waiting for a boat to Sorrento, in front of us was a large public seating area and a woman in her 30s was teaching an appx 7 yo girl how to pickpocket. It was sad and disturbing to me. I said nothing (I was alone with my young son in a foreign country and do not speak Italian - last thing I wanted was conflict, or worse). No one else there said anything either. Everyone just silently minded their own business.

I did not assume they didn't care, I assumed their cultural norms are different from mine.

Posted by
12154 posts

I can well imagine that pickpocket wanna be got a real shaking with the US guy screaming, ie, mad dogging it, and no one said a thing. The male accomplice felt he could be next since his attention was fixed on the shaking scene. The US guy was taking it out on her, probably rightly.

Posted by
5942 posts

MReynolds -- Oddly, when I saw a pickpocket attempting to get into my mother's purse a few years ago (on the line 1 as well), I had almost the same reaction as WUSCJIM -- that is, I looked at the fellow but did not yell -- and I wondered almost immediately myself why I hadn't yelled to alert others. In the moment, I was simply happy he'd left my mother alone -- but it bothered me too in retrospect that I hadn't drawn attention to him.

Since then, I've often warned tourists on my line that a pickpocket is near, or to be careful of their bags -- but I still can't be certain of what I will do the next time I'm able (if so!) to divert someone from picking mine or one of my loved one's pocket.

Posted by
91 posts

I think some don't care as they see it all the time while traveling to and from work , normal day routine. Some are stunned, don't know what to do. I think I would want to say or do something after all if I were in their shoes I would pray someone would help me. BUT here in the USA you might do so but overseas.. it happens so fast , unexpected even if you read and read about it. I am hoping I would come to someone's defense. Shame that you have cultures that in Italy other places it's the norm to pickpocket for everyday life. That includes the USA too , if you go to NYC watch out ,although I had no problems in Boston or NY. Going to Rome in a few weeks and I plan to take the buses other means of transport so I am going to try and be aware.. Thanks for posting this Jim. I guess they leave the natives alone and zero in on us traveler's ,so the natives just ignore them. Shame , shame on them.

Posted by
2202 posts

The woman in Bologna who tried to pick my husband's pocket "looked like a gypsy" to me. That may not be the most politically correct thing I've ever said, but that was my reaction to her appearance. I was a few steps behind my husband and when I realized what was happening I started slapping the woman's arm with a rolled up tourist brochure and screamed at her to go away until she did. Nobody on the crowded sidewalk took any interest in our little show, not even the Priest standing nearby in a doorway.

Posted by
8293 posts

I can relate to Trayla's experience. Walking on Wenceslas Square in Prague with a friend who walked slowly due to recent hip operation, we were suddenly hemmed in by 4 guys. Realizing what was happening, I started to yell, "Police! Police! Help!" My friend, who had not yet understood what was going on thought I had suddenly lost my mind. No one, not one single person, paid the slightest attention to this mad tourist yelling her head off. The pickpockets, however, suddenly melted away. End of drama.

Posted by
2751 posts

I'm getting the chills reading about these incidences and bystanders reactions to them. I've never mentioned this on the forum but once when we were on the Paris metro a group of 4-5 young men pulled a knife on a group of our students. We had jumped on a metro train with a few students and another part of our group jumped on at the other end. It was late at night and the car wasn't full. A few seconds into the ride we noticed a commotion at the other end and saw some youths standing near our students. We had no idea there was a knife involved. We started to get up to go help but a couple of our guys towards the group caught at the end motioned for us not to come. They moved in between our group at the end and threatening youths. We watched as there was this eye to eye standoff. No one made a more threatening move and we inched towards the end group. When the train came to the next stop, the threatening group jumped off.

The thing that shocked me at the time (and to this day I guess) was how the other local metro rides in between reacted. Not one yelled or said a word or moved an inch to help.

Posted by
2445 posts

Interesting.

I have been attempted pickpocketed once, in Paris across the river from Notre Dame. Notorious for this. It was the scam with the petition - came up, I wouldn't sign, they got too close and had a hand in my purse. I yelled, they left, no one paid attention. I'd never yell at a thief in the US - I'd give him my money rather than getting attacked. But your stereotypical gypsy pickpocket doesn't want the attention and will just run off, from my experience and all reports. And no one intervenes because of culture, fear, and the fact that no one will get hurt.

Posted by
1018 posts

My reaction would also be to smile and just hope they go away, but this is due to my fear of being punched in the face. In the US we get mugged and violence is the normal method to steal from people and we are told to just give them what they want so they don't kill you cause it's not worth it. Before doing my research I was unaware that most pickpockets are not violent nor will they do you any harm, they really just want your valuables. With that mindset and knowing these are children being used by adults, it makes me more aware of my actions. I was not pickpocketed not did we ever feel like we were being targeted, we stayed away from the doors (usually got a seat) and were aware of who was around us as we prepared to depart, fully aware that we may not even know if/when it happens and I don't carry anything in my pockets and my hubby had his wallet in his front pocket. We actually saw the police escort a group of 4 very vocal teenage girls out of the metro station in Paris.

Posted by
16817 posts

When a small girl suspiciously infiltrated my tour group who were listening to our guide in Naples, I just picked her up and put her back out. Since you're rarely going to catch them "red-handed," making a fuss sometimes seems futile. They certainly count on the element of surprise, and they know how to act innocent and escape quickly.

Posted by
1716 posts

Some of these scenarios describe a topic of our social psych classes many years ago. In 1964 a young woman named Kitty Genovese was reportedly murdered in full view of over 30 people in her apartment building and no one called the police. The bystander effect or the Genovese syndrome as it came to be called. The more people that witness such an event, the less the likelihood that someone will intervene.

Posted by
5942 posts

Yelling DOES help here -- Lord knows I did it to the fellow taking my work phone out of my purse -- luckily it was a lowly BlackBerry so he determine with one look and one listen that it wasn't worth getting caught for that non-iPhone device.

The other thing is that here, at least, you feel pretty confident that no one's going to pull out a gun and shoot at you. The incident with the knife is certainly scary so perhaps should give me more pause. However, I've never seen anything like that in 10 years of living here. The one time I saw a knife brandished in a menacing way in my vicinity was Christmas Eve 1995 in St Louis on the little tramway or skyway or whatever it is that goes (or went) from the city out to the airport.

Posted by
518 posts

"We had jumped on a metro train .... and another part of our group jumped on at the other end"

My experience exactly back in the fall of 2014, getting onto a train in Rome (I have a post on that encounter here). There is nothing more unsettling, if not frightening, to be the only person on the train and have a threatening group coming in at you from both ends. That's the only time I've ever been robbed/threatened, anywhere, whether traveling our at home in the States. I too try to be "hyper-vigilent" so that incident left me scratching my head on why I could have been so foolish and let my guard down.

Posted by
91 posts

This is my second post.. no pickpocketing happened but since someone mentioned a knife and other happening I'll tell this.
My husband , I and grown daughter , a teen granddaughter were taking our 2nd or 3rd trip to Boston on the subway coming from the airport direction. Just one of the days we were traveling around the city . After we were seated about 4 men came on then the doors shut " different races " hope I can say that.. Only because that may be an issue as to what gang they were. Anyway one stood at each door looking at us , the other two stood and looked down the car. NO one said a word , no one moved an inch we just looked at them , vice versa. I knew it was not good. Anyway the next stop they moved off the car and my husband said it was gang members. I have never seen gang members before but I knew those guys were BAD not to rile them up.... So glad they left us alone.. Been back to Boston a few more time with friends / family and nothing else ever happened but that one time sure scared the be-jeebies out of me.

My brother drove San Francisco Muni buses & streetcars, and was a conductor on the Cable Cars for many years. He & his pals used to "Announce" pickpockets - as in: "Ladies & gentlemen, today we have a pickpocket in attendance, and he is wearing a blue jacket. Be certain to welcome him aboard!" Pickpocket exits at the next stop.

I have been very lucky & in 32 years of European travel, have never had a pocket picked. However I am diligent. I have heard of numerous folks getting backpacks picked. My cousin likes traveling with a backpack, so she goes through the turnstiles first, and I follow, with my bag in front of me. My best advice is to be very aware of your surroundings.

Posted by
1 posts

3 years ago when I was in Paris with a girlfriend we were at a station waiting for the Metro. Just as the train arrived a woman shouted out that there were gypsies getting on the train and to watch our bags. She was vocal about the fact that the girls were there. The girls got on the train but just before it left they station they got off and waited for the next one where no one would be the wiser.

Posted by
16 posts

I had the misfortune of needing an emergency appendectomy on my last visit to Paris, and while in the hospital I watched a documentary on television covering the problem of pickpockets in Europe. It is so widespread that locals are not even distracted by it anymore. If you ride the train daily as many Europeans do, you come to recognize the pickpockets and beggars who jump on and off between cars, and they you, which would appear to be the reason why no one paid attention in this case to what was happening. But apparently this is a growing concern for Europeans, who note that the targets are nearly always tourists and they worry about the potential damage to the travel industry.
The sad thing is that these children were being watched by their 'keeper' who manages the income (very lucrative). Most of them are homeless and in EU illegally. If they meet their quota, they get dinner and a room in a dumpy hotel or hostel. If not, it's on the street, begging for their supper. Oliver Twist in the 21st century! Because children's hands are small, they can reach into pockets of even the tightest jeans without detection and can usually distract their targets easier because, well, who puts up their guard around a child? The EU is more focused on catching the 'Fagan's' of the story than they are prosecuting the young children. If it happens to you, go after the adult. He's the one perpetuating the crime.

Posted by
57 posts

I've been a cop for more than 35 years. I'm also an avid travel photographer and carry a lot of equipment. That makes me a target. In 2011 we were in Barcelona. I was alone since my girlfriend was inside a shop. I was at the Placa Real which is a large square just off Las Ramblas. It was crowded and broad daylight. Suddenly 4 young men surround me. One approached me and grabbed my shirt and said, "that's a really nice shirt". My training instinctively kicked in. I immediately yelled loudly and told him exactly what I was about to do to him. I won't repeat the profanity I used. If necessary I was prepared to use my camera as an impact weapon. Fortunately they walked away. I firmly believe they planned to rob me. My suggestion is to create chaos. Make it uncomfortable for the bad guys to take you down. Try not to freeze up. Defend yourself as best you can. If I had been passive they would have won. Fortunately they didn't.

Men, don't think keeping your wallet helps in your front pocket is worth much. Both in Paris in June 2015 and in Barcelona in 2011 I was pickpockets with my wallet in the front pocket. Fortunately, only unused metro tickets and relatively small amounts of cash (i.e., what was left of what I was willing to lose per day) was taken. I keep my important stuff in my neck wallet. In Barcelona I was reminded, however, of a warning I had read somewhere, not to use the first metro train car, because, I assume, of the higher probability of being in a crush of impatient people getting on and off, a perfect situation for pickpockets getting to impatient tourists. But, tired and in a hurry, one day I dropped my guard. Late returning to my hotel to get ready for a concert that evening, I came down the steps to the platform just as a train stopped in front of me with the center door opening. Perfect, I thought as people were pushing through the door. But people were still exiting too. I was in the midst, one hand on my right front pocket and partially on my point and shoot camera hanging from my shoulders and pulled to the front, my other hand holding my daypack in front. As I stepped through the door squeezed between people I immediately felt the disappearance of my wallet. I turned around to look who did this and get off the car again, but my exit was blocked by four men side-by -side with their backs toward me. One took out the cash, turned around, and handed me my wallet low, so I had to look down and bend over to grab it and so was unable to see the person's face. Brilliant. My concert ticket remained. It was quick and smooth. The remaining passengers entering the car prevented me from seeing anymore of the culprits. I found a seat, my wallet in my hand, as everyone nearby looked at me with recognition what had happened, but no other expression I could interpret clearly.

Last summer, after traveling in France I arrived in Paris in the afternoon of the first day of the Uber taxi strike. Already delayed getting to the hotel, I did not want to waste any more time and packed my daypack and took off, got my 10 metro tickets in the machine of Line 1. It was a madhouse. I had put my cameras in my daypack and before entering the Metro held it in front of me dangling low but clearly visible to me. I figured anyone who wanted it, needed to bend down. One train had already gone by as I familiarized myself with the gates. Full. The next train came. Full. I entered whatever car stopped in front of me. There was plenty of body bumping contact as people were trying to get on the full train. I checked my front right pocket periodically. I found a standing room place by the door holding on with one hand on the vertical pole. My back was to the door, about the worst place to be, but there was no room to move elsewhere. Anyone knows that automatically controlled No. 1 metro can really jostle you from side to side as it moves down the tracks. So one is constantly bumped against other standing passengers. My pocket felt right to my touch, but it would have been difficult to keep my hand constantly on it, very briefly holding on to the pole with two hands around sharper curves or rapid breaking and trying to maintain my balance. Shortly after I got off I realized my wallet was gone. I had sufficient cash in my neck wallet, and so I could purchase more metro tickets (I thought about how otherwise I would have returned to the hotel?) and other sightseeing tickets during the rest of the afternoon. As always, I had a second inexpensive spare wallet in my suitcase ready to use in case I was pick pocketed. I used it during the rest of my Paris stay. After the strike ended in about 2 days or so normal metro traffic resumed, and I could easily find a seat away from the doors. I was relieved. I knew that by my appearance I would continue to be a target, but I had been prepared and damage was minimal.

Posted by
12154 posts

@ Gary...Well said. Your point is well taken, totally with your assessment. Since there were 4 and you were surrounded by them, I don't think their intentions were harmless, letting loose with a plethora of profanity works. It did in your case since these 4 punk wanna be types got the point.

Posted by
1 posts

I have been to Paris many times since the mid 80's and observed all kinds of 'gypsy tricks'... On one of my trips in the 90's I witnessed 3 gypsies hovering around a mom and her daughter - they were engaged and not realizing the gypsies tried to lift the flap of the mom's handbag. I shouted at the mom to alert her but it wasn't until I started to photograph the gypsies, quickly moving towards the thieves-they ran like rats. I later realized they were threatened by my actions, I was documenting a crime in progress. Fortunately they didn't get anything from the mom's handbag, she was very relieved. If you're going to Paris, be on guard for the pickpocketers. If you get a bad gut feeling about someone too close to you, grab your camera and start shooting. You'll see the person get very uncomfortable, they travel in packs of 3 or 5 so you have to morph into someone not to be messed with. Works for me every time... the Eiffel Tower is one of their haunts, we were there 2 years ago and approached twice. Speaking to them you give away what country you're from, they think Americans are easy targets because we are in awe of our new surroundings and distracted. You have to be as relentless in protecting yourself and your possessions as they are in taking them.

Posted by
7 posts

Fifteen years ago, my husband was traveling alone in Italy. He was completely oblivious to being the target of a group of pickpockets very similar to those described in this discussion.

A well-dressed Italian businessman noticed the small girl extricate the billfold from my husband's pocket. He loudly told my husband (in English) what was happening. Two other passengers grabbed the child. One of them got off with my husband and the child at the next stop and located a policeman (who didn't speak English). This good Samaritan then got back on the Metro.

The girl was screaming and making a scene, denying that she had done anything. The policeman explained as best he could with charades that the child probably had the billfold inside her underwear and that a policewoman would be needed to search the child. He then took my husband and the child to a police station, where they eventually met the policewoman, who located the billfold and returned it to my husband, who had been given an espresso while he waited. Once his billfold, ID, passport and credit cards had been returned to him, the police gave him a lift back to his hotel.

A frightening 4 hours. And a completely surprising series of small (and large) gestures of kindness that complete strangers could (and in my experience often do) provide to a naïve tourist. I often wonder what prompted the men on the metro to help (not sure I would have inconvenienced myself on my way to work if the situation were reversed). And I also wonder what happened to that child.
Fifteen years later, she's probably teaching her own kids how to live a life of crime the easy way: on the metro, watching for Americans with iPhones in their pockets.

Posted by
1164 posts

A very nice man stopped kids from pickpocketing me in the Paris Metro. The little brats kicked us, mocked us and ran off laughing. The Parisian took us to the police station a few feet away and we made a report. We were lucky!
Not so lucky in Rome where one got me. I thought it was strange that the man next to me had a coat on in 90 degree weather.

I bought a small change purse from RS. In it he as a card addressed to the pickpocket something to the effect that not much money to be found in this wallet, get a different job. It is written in several languages.

Posted by
23 posts

I wouldn't be so sure that this sort of thing doesn't happen so much in US cities. I have had it happen to me twice in Chicago even though I live here and consider myself 'street wise.'

One ploy is to block a door as someone is trying to get off; as the passenger pushes trying to get out and focused on the one blocking them, an accomplice picks pocket or purse from behind.

There are other techniques including slitting a man's rear pocket or man/woman's fanny pack on the bottom with a razor causing wallet or other valuables to fall out.

I have ridden trains/metro/buses in London, Paris, Rome, Cairo etc. and never had a problem. The trick is where money etc., is carried (money belt and the 'available' in front, not behind) and continued alertness (same thing which is true world-wide).

Posted by
42 posts

"The more things change, the more they remain the same". I was on a subway platform in Paris in the 80's when I was approached by two young girls, by appearances Gypsy, about 7 years old. They were probably just learning and easily spotted, holding a poster out in front of them for me to read while using it as cover for their reaching hands. I speak some French and yelled at them to go away. They laughed, spat at me, and left. Nice. A few stops on I came across a policeman and told him that there were a couple of young pickpockets working the station I had just left. He shrugged helplessly and replied in exasperation , "They're everywhere!" I can sympathize with him; children under 12 can't be arrested where I live in Canada- I expect the same sort of restrictions are in Europe. There are few realistic available options when the parents of these children, knowing full well that the authorities hands are tied, turn their children out as thieves [ and sometimes prostitutes]. If you observe European women you will notice that many of them hold their purses and bags in a "death grip".
Gary had good advice if you are able to intimidate them either physically or verbally; they don't want attention. I just returned from the Philippines where in Manilla in the first 4 days I was overcharged by a taxi driver, had a guy try to steal my watch, and four teenagers [ 3 female, 1 male] tried to set me up for robbery. I am 6 foot, 2 inches- larger than most people there. The taxi driver got away with it [Viva Uber! - I have learned to hate taxis when abroad], the man who tried to steal my watch desisted after he got an elbow in the head, and the teenagers who had surrounded me on a quiet street moved on after I gave one a good, hard shove. You don't have to get physical though, just yelling and screaming will often persuade thieves to leave and find a "softer" target.

Posted by
518 posts

Yes, it can be tiring to "constantly be alert", your neck gets tired and sore from the constant turning and twisting. I do it here at home in the Bay Area just walking down the street, not just for robberies and muggings, but for all the lousy drivers that don't look where they're driving while talking on the phone. You get used to it though, like exercise and eating healthy, some see it as an insurmountable chore, while others have turned it into a lifestyle and possibly even an enjoyable one at that. I've never been pick-pocketed before either in all my years of travel, but reading these stories help keep me from being overconfident and reminds me that it can STILL happen and to NEVER let your guard down, even if just sitting comfortably in your hotel lobby.

I might add that in addition to all the tips, I tend to also employ very brisk/fast walking when I feel as if a crowd is forming or I'm being aggressively solicited/followed. I also avoid all eye contact with street merchants and peddlers.

Posted by
31218 posts

I got a good education on the pickpockets in Europe after watching an award-winning BBC show called Gypsy Child Thieves (it was also shown on CBC). The story was done by Liviu Tipurita, a Romanian journalist so he knows the culture and the language.

His investigation showed that in many cases this is not just a matter of people stealing to put food on the table, but rather an organized criminal enterprise, where only the leaders of the gang get rich (and some get very rich by these proceeds of crime). The Police in Spain and Italy had elaborate charts showing the hierarchy of the groups, with the leaders in Romania at the top. Some of the children were sent out to pickpocket in the daytime, and then locked in a plywood shack with a dirt floor at night. This was described on one website.....

"In Italy, where Gypsies face a shocking tide of racism, a major police investigation found enslaved children locked in a shack like animals."

Of course these are only one segment of the pickpockets operating in Europe. There are also the local groups in places like Naples that operate on their own or as members of other criminal gangs.

The program is available on YouTube for those that are interested (it's about 58 minutes in length).

Posted by
8293 posts

Ken, I saw a similar documentary, may have been the same one, about Roma based in (former) Yugoslavia but plying their "trade" in Italy, and I was left with the impression that being born a "gypsy" was like being born into a religious cult from which there is no escape. The head honcho is all powerful and life is at risk if he is defied. Babies are commodities, used for begging (rent-a-babe) and small children are embryonic criminals. They are a despised underclass, always have been, always will be, and pitiable because of that.

Posted by
31218 posts

Norma,

According to the documentary, 13-year old girls are also a commodity and one disgusting example was profiled in the video. I agree, there's likely no escape for those born into that culture. They may be conditioned to think that's a good life and therefore may not want to escape.

Posted by
46 posts

I used to keep my Civita bag with the zippers meeting at the top. Now, I make sure the zipper is all the way to the right or left with a key ring around the 2 zipper tabs. Twice I have had pickpockets try to open my bag. Not anymore.

After years of travel, my husband did a not smart thing, he gave a few coins to a busker, than dropped his coin purse in his front pocket. The pickpocket knew exactly where to find it. On the crowded metro, next to the door, in half a second the coin purse was gone. My husband grabbed pickpocket's arm just as the subway door was closing. The man would have been killed or injured if he had not gotten out of my husbands grip and jumped out of the train. Not a good thing for a few coins.

Posted by
12131 posts

The Roma, they and the Jews are the only two remaining cultural minorities that it is still politically correct to stereotype in a negative light. Well done! If you want to learn about the Roma, let me suggest Radu Jude’s latest movie, “Aferim!,”

Posted by
31218 posts

James E,

I wasn't sure if you were referring to my earlier post, but it wasn't my intention to stereotype the Roma (or anyone else) in a negative light. I didn't decide on the title nor the content of the video shown by the Romanian journalist. Those were the facts he reported.

Posted by
12131 posts

No Ken, we're good. Didn't even read your post. Sorry. Was referring to the post just above mine. Listen, I am guilty too. When I walk through the Roma neighborhoods on Budapest I check my wallet often. Despite the fact that some of the best citizens in town are Roma.

G-d Bless

Posted by
741 posts

Threads like this helped me convince my mom and hubby that we had to be vigilant. My hubby was more lax than we were. In small towns he kept his spending day money in his front pocket but at chateaux and in larger towns he put even that in his neck wallet. He kept our passports in his belt loop pouch that he got on this site. Never worried about those. So easy.

I wore my camera cross body as well as my pacsafe small purse. My mom had her money belt and pacsafe purse. We saw the scams, we had the Ring scam, petition scam, being followed etc but thankfully we were aware and had nothing taken in 26 days.

Posted by
12131 posts

photobearsam; post like this convince me that while even coming close to stereotyping groups A, B or C will get you castrated, disemboweled and tossed out of the forum; stereotyping Roma is still culturally P.C. Also curious how anyone really knows they are Roma? Unless the fact that they are stealing automatically identifies them? I once met a young lady in Rome, dressed like a Roma; begging for food. Once I got her to speak she sounded a little bit like a New Yorker. Doesn't bother me. I am an equal opportunity stereotyper. I just find it curious and amusing.

photobearsam; there are a few hotspots, but I wouldn't let worry over this mess up an otherwise good trip. Through work I have contact with a lot of tourists and outside SPAIN, Rome, Paris (big time in Paris for some reason) and Prague I have only heard first hand of one other attempt and that was in Vienna. The local population in that attempt didn't care either; nor did they in Paris now that I think about it. But, as it was pointed out up above, not caring is a cultural norm so its okay. Imagine that in the U.S.? Some Texan would blast the little scoundrel if he saw him robbing someone. Personally in over 30 trips to Europe I have been hit twice, both times in Paris. Neither successful. Go enjoy.

Posted by
23 posts

Obviously, one must be vigilant, but I wouldn't want anyone to be so frightened of being pick-pocketed that they don't travel. My husband and I have taken numerous trips to Europe, including 4 weeks in Spain, 3 in Germany and several trips to Paris, Amsterdam, etc. We were approached several times, but robbed only once. On a subway in Athens we were returning to our hotel after a day of sightseeing and on the very last day of our vacation. I had my camera in it's bag which was clasped shut. I was wearing the bag cross the front of my body. I try to keep my hands on the camera and my purse, but somehow they got it. Right out of the fastened bag. We were several blocks away from the subway before I even noticed the camera was gone. It wasn't a real expensive camera -- they could have had it, but I cried over the 3 weeks worth of pictures that were gone too. That stunk, but it didn't deter us. I do change my way of carrying my camera now, though. It's now closer to my body and in that "death grip" that was referred to earlier. These thieves are very good and you should not underestimate them.

Posted by
1811 posts

Out of all the places we've visited in our two trips to Europe--Catania, Taormina, Florence, Rome, Paris, Lucerne, Salerno, Sant' Arsenio (small town in Campania)--I would say that the two places I felt most vulnerable were the Paris Metro and around crowds in Florence, specifically around Il Duomo or on the Ponte Vecchio.

The Paris Metro is great, so damned convenient and efficient (although it has a smell all its own!) but it's crowded most all the time during the day and early evening, and as stated above there's always a fair amount of jostling of the car back-and-forth. On a full-to-the-brim car with no available seats, I routinely encountered the same problem of trying to keep my hand over my zippered pockets while trying to hold on to a vertical pole, keeping a watch on my wife at the same time. People were right up against us, and to a veteran pickpocket I might have been easy pickings, but I was ready to yell or accost if need be. I did have a neck pouch with most valuables inside, but still a few Euro, etc. inside the zippers. Nothing happened, but it's good practice in my opinion to be very aware.

The Florence crowds and vulnerability are simply the result of too much tactile stimulation--so much going on from static visuals that you don't realize the gypsies and selfie stick hawkers bombarding you from all sides, and the vigilance ends up getting compromised. I love Firenze but choose to travel there off-season, and even off-weekend, avoiding these multitudes.

Lucerne, Switzerland was like walking in small-town America. Not that I let my guard down, ever, in fact I used the neck pouch whenever venturing outside the hotel or apartment. As discombobulated as one can get when traveling, it was a comfort to know where my important 'stuff' was at all times, you know? But Lucerne was a joy, an idyllic haven after Paris. And the Sicilian towns were pretty cool as well, although we never encountered crowds to test it--not that I'd want to! The jury is still out on Rome, where we hobnobbed all over by foot, my antennae never went up there but this was 7 years ago and besides we never rode the notorious buses that the Roman pickpockets frequent.

Bottom line is that to be prepared (neck pouch, copies of everything) and vigilant (avoid crowds but when inevitable keep your eyes peeled and pockets covered) is the only way to travel comfortably in Europe. It's not overkill, judging by the above stories and also my friends' experiences.