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Crime in Europe
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Continued from page 1


ABOVE: The Basilica di San Marco in Venice is a happy hunting ground for pickpockets, who--like politicians--know how to work the crowds.

Pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and petty theft

Most tourist crime involves theft of property. For example:

  • Pickpockets frequently work in airports, train stations, subways, and other crowded public places, just as they do in many other countries. Gangs of child pickpockets can also be a problem. (I recently met an American tourist who had two narrow escapes with picketpockets during a group tour: In Paris, he reached into his pocket and found a stranger's hand; in London, a thief tried to open his backpack.)
  • Purse-snatchers may grab handbags, video cameras, laptop cases, etc. and escape on foot or by motorscooter.
  • Street thieves may break into cars, stealing luggage and other valuables.
  • Hotel thieves may slip into guestrooms, stealing money, cameras, jewelry, etc.
Crimes such as muggings, armed robbery, and rape are far less common, although it obviously makes sense to avoid questionable neighborhoods late at night.

How to protect your belongings

Common sense will go a long way toward preventing theft. Here are a few basic tips:

  • Watch your wallet. If you're a man, carry your wallet in a deep side pocket of your trousers or an inside pocket of a zipped jacket. A lump in your hip pocket is an invitation to pickpockets. (Better yet, wear a travel shirt with a zippered pocket in front. Ex Officio and REI sell men's shirts with this design.)
  • Use strong shoulder straps. A heavy leather strap or, better yet, a cable-reinforced strap will make it harder for grab-and-run thieves to cut through the strap and make off with your handbag or camera.

  • photoConsider buying a secure bag. PacSafe makes lockable fabric backpacks and courier bags that incorporate a hidden slashproof layer of steel mesh. See page 3 of this article for more pictures and a link.

  • Guard loose belongings. Don't hang cameras or purses on café chairs, and keep your suitcases close at hand when you're at a ticket counter or hotel registration desk.
  • Wear a "neck safe" or money belt. Stores that sell luggage and travel accessories offer a wide variety of pouches that hang from the neck, fit around the waist, or wrap around the ankle. Use one of these for your passport and the bulk of your traveler's checks and credit cards. (Also remember to keep photocopies of your passport's main page and the receipts for your traveler's checks in a safe place in case the originals are stolen.)
  • Check small valuables. Leave jewelry,  cash or traveler's checks, and other easy-to-steal valuables in the hotel safe when you don't need them. (Be sure to get a receipt.)
  • Be careful with your car. Don't leave valuables where they can be seen, and don't store luggage in the trunk overnight. Park in public places where thieves are less likely to risk breaking into your car.

 Useful Web sites

Continued on page 3

In this article:
Introduction Risks and precautions Web links

Daypack photo copyright © PacSafe. Used by permission.