Mistake #10: Being easy prey for pickpockets and purse-snatchers
Your odds of being robbed or mugged in Paris are fairly low. In the Métro, one estimate puts the assault rate at 1 in 365,000 passengers, or about 6,000 muggings compared to more than two billion underground rides each year. What's more, violent crime is most likely to occur in places that tourists seldom frequent, such as public housing projects on the outskirts of the city.
Pickpocketing and purse-snatching are a different story. Crooks with sticky fingers do a land-office business in a city that attracts more than 30 million tourists every year, and neither the police nor the judicial system can keep up with the thieves.
We know several people who have been victims of pickpockets, and we can't resist sharing an anecdote:
Many tourists invite theft by making their possessions easy to steal. Men carry wallets and passports in their hip pockets, while women often wear bags behind their shoulders and out of sight, where a pickpocket can rummage like a bear with a garbage can.
Other visitors wear expensive camera backpacks that might as well be labeled "Steal me." Belt packs ("fanny packs" in American vernacular) are popular targets for pickpockets. The most clueless victims of all are tourists who wear neck wallets or pouches outside their clothing, where any snatch-and-grab thief can cut the cord before running off with a stash of money and credit cards.
Be aware of your surroundings, and be especially watchful in areas that are frequented by tourists. A France Crime & Safety Report from the Overseas Security Advisory Council claims that pickpockets are especially active in:
The American Embassy's "Pickpockets in Paris: How to Avoid Becoming a Victim" page has information on techniques used by pickpockets and purse-snatchers (many of whom are adolescents who work in groups).
Bottom line: By using common sense, you'll encourage pickpockets and purse-snatchers to look for tourists who are more careless than you are.
Top photo copyright © Lisa Gagne.
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