The most common crimes against tourists are pickpocketing and snatch/run crimes. These same crimes can also be the easiest to avoid.. There are a number of actions you can take to reduce your risk, or at least reduce your loss if you fall victim. Fake wallets, clothing designed to prevent theft, and some personal safety tips will help make you less of a target.
In many destinations it takes a conscious effort to avoid becoming the victim. On May 21, 2015, Paris officials released statistics showing a 23% drop in the number of pickpocket crimes compared to the same period the previous year. The next day, employees of the Eiffel Tower closed access and walked off the job in protest of the high pickpocket rate around the area. In April of 2013, the guides at the Louvre in Paris walked out in protest of the working conditions at the world famous museum. Pickpockets were becoming more frequent and more aggressive. Workers eventually returned to work after reaching an agreement that 20 uniformed police officers would be on patrol inside the museum. While Paris is a known high pickpocket-rate location, any destination with a large population of tourists can be risky.
Pickpocket’s use many methods to snatch your valuables. For example, when crowds of people push to get on or off public transportation, it’s easy to disregard someone bumping into you and taking something off your person. The “take a survey” or “I’m lost” tactics are also common ploys against tourists. A person, generally an attractive girl, will ask you to take a survey or asks for directions while holding a map. Using a clip board or the unfolded map to block your view they empty your purse or bag. Sometimes, it is okay be rude and ignore people.
Exiting a subway station turnstile, or riding an escalator are also vulnerable situations. An accomplice could place themselves ahead of you, purposefully stop the flow of traffic, and have their partner pickpocket you while distracted by the interruption. The same tactic can be used on any form of mass transit. Another method often seen is quickly grabbing your bag or cell phone and escaping as the doors are closing.
For cruise ship guests, returning to the ship is the most vulnerable point. You may have your hands full with purchases, and a passenger in front of you stops to look at something, causing everyone behind to slow down and squeeze by. Seeing the opportunity, the criminal closes in. Getting off a tour bus is dangerous for your belongings as there is always some confusion and plenty of opportunities for a thief to pick a few targets.
The best thing you can to is to be situationally aware. Always know what’s going on around you and will definitely be less than target.
Some common suggestions:
- Avoid crowds as much as possible. In crowded situations, be patient and try to isolate yourself way from the crowd. This applies to buses, mass transportation, museums, anywhere there are crowds.
- Do not carry anything in your back pocket, it is the easiest place for thieves to get too. The Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police warns: The expert pickpocket reaches into the top of the pocket, takes up a pleat in the lining, and continually folds the lining up until the bottom of the pocket (holding your valuables) reaches the top of the pocket. This entire act only takes a second or two. Wallets should be in the front.
- Carry only the minimum amount of cash that you need and only one ID on you, that way if you lose your wallet your loss is minimized. You might want to use a “Muggers” wallet if you do need a larger sum of cash with you. A “Mugger” wallet is a distraction for the pickpocket, while your normal wallet is hidden away. You might want to keep a few dollars in it so you can use it for roadside purchases and not give away the location of your wallet in public. Do not count your cash in a public place.
- Purses and similar bags should have a short strap but be long enough to be worn across the chest and over your head. It should be in a location where your arm will naturally cover it as it is kept in front of you. Likewise, backpacks should be worn in front of you.
- Remember a pickpocket’s best friend (after a crowd) is a sign that says “Beware of Pickpockets.” It’s instinct to check your wallet or cell phone when you read the sign. You tell potential thieves where your valuables are located.
- One step that you should consider before taking any vacation is purchasing clothing designed to make it more difficult for thieves. A few companies design clothing that are meant to provide protection against pickpockets. The company Clothing Arts offers a range of business and casual wear with secret pockets to protect your valuables. Clever Travel Companion offers more casual attire with secured t-shirts and tank tops.
A few simple steps can help the criminal by past you and look elsewhere.