The worst places for thieves and pick pockets
I am pretty streetwise but I have been pick pocketed twice. Twice in the same place and it does not appear on the Trip Advisor top ten. Jean has been bag lifted once, again not on that list. So I thought I would run a Doris Visits slant on their pick pocket places top ten, and add to some very simple advice to try and avoid it. I say try, because when a pick pocket goes to work, a few times a day they will succeed.
Tips to Avoid Being Pickpocketed
- Don’t carry anything you absolutely don’t need.
- Don’t be distracted by girls, bird poo or kids playing football.
- Any distraction, a barge, dropping something near you, squirting something on you, or simply jostling you means your wallet, camera lens, bag are in danger.
- Leaflet givers have partners who come in behind and also take an interest while taking your goods. Pickpockets often work in pairs or groups and it’s not just the usual suspects. Watch women and children. The artful dodger is based on fact!
- Confined spaces, churches, and passageways are target areas.
- Reduce what you take out, reduce what is in what you take out. Expect to lose it, then you are in the right frame of mind.
- No wallets in back pockets, loose cargo pockets, unbuttoned inside pockets.
- The best tip is a sheet of set sticky soft rubber that sticks to clothing. Put that in your pocket round your money or wallet so it sticks. Double sided tape, masking tape, anything sticky.
Don’t carry anything. Don’t carry a hand bag. Now that seems a daft thing to say but what do you actually need and why are you carrying a bag? The bag might not get stolen but your mindfulness of it means you are not concentrating on something else. There is my key as to how these people work. They ensure your mind is on one thing, they take the other. Diversionary tactics.
The worst places are busy centres. The easy ploy is for someone to crash into you and walk on, as you turn in disgust someone else takes your wallet or the lens off your camera leaving the camera body round your neck. In Innsbruck, a lady started to talk with Jean, and her bag was gone, in seconds. She never noticed until she stepped on the bus.
Another well used ploy is the local tour seller handing you a leaflet and encouraging you to look and hold, while you also try to concentrate on your bag, your mind is focused, they take the shoes from your feet. Not quite, but leaflet handers are to be avoided. Russia is an area where this technique is used.
So first I will mention the worst place I have seen for pick pockets lying in wait, in groups, pondering targets. St Petersburg, Russia. That would be my number 1. They are obvious in the main square and too crushed together in the Church of the Spilled Blood to be noticed.
My number 2 is Romania. I watched first hand an actress robbed by children with such style none of us knew it was happening until it was too late. We were all on a day off from filming and walking the city and admiring street kids happily playing football. They kicked the ball to the actress and encouraged her to kick back. On achieving this they all cheered and ran up to her and hugged her. They then vanished. I am surprised she had any clothes on for everything she thought she had was gone.
Gentlemen, I give you my experience. We were watching the Euros in a bar in Bucharest. I was with Radio 2’s Chris Evans who at the time was with our star Billy Piper, and a lot of other guys. At half-time I ran to the cash point for cash. I stuffed it in my pocket and turned away and into a girl. There are lots of girls in Bucharest offering many things but not football, so as she grabbed me in a place which would be classed as a sexual assault anywhere in the world and asked if she could help, I pushed her away and ran on. I stopped, within steps’ I knew what she had done. My wallet was gone, I turned, she was gone. Luckily I borrowed a phone, rang my wife (Doris) in London, and she canceled all the cards straight away. I just lost a couple of hundred pounds and the others stood my drinks for the second half. Romania I am sad to say hit me and the crew many times we were there. We felt like walking targets, so that would be my number 2.
I have to mention a third, that is Innsbruck, where Doris had her bag masterfully taken at the bus station en route to the airport and the police refused to take a statement. That certainly is a way to keep crime figures down. They suggested that we should get our plane and make the report to UK police when we get home. We refused and demanded to see someone higher. It was not a popular or pleasant hour and they seemed very used to this routine, so beware places that claim to have low crime.
To lighten the piece, the safest place I would list as Dubai. There you hardly see crime and there is honour and respect. People leave their wallets and phones on tables and cars unlocked.
So to Trip Advisors top ten, which I guess might be weighted by the volume of people who go there.
1. Las Ramblas: Barcelona, Spain is their headline for number 1. I have to say I have not had a problem in Barcelona (see our film on using the metro) but I would suggest it is somewhere to be very careful. Las Ramblas is said to be a target area.
2. Rome, Italy. Rome is another busy city and churches distract people and let them feel at ease so I am not surprised to see that here. I would beware anywhere in Rome but so far I have been lucky there.
3. Prague, Czech Republic. Trip advisor suggest that before taking in the view from the bridge of the Vltava River and the Prague Castle beyond, be sure valuables are strapped down. Good advice though again I never felt Prague was as bad as many places I have been. But then we did see it by Segway. I guess the clock and any other outdoor attraction where you wait concentrating on a focussed event are dangerous.
4. Madrid, Spain El Rastro fleamarket and the crowded metro are said to be sites to watch, but hey, London is a nightmare for crime for the same reasons. It is a crowded city so I suggest this means any crowded city.
5. Paris: Paris, France. As above, a capital city. All places with enormous crowds from the base of the Eiffel Tower to the steps of Sacre-Coeur and everywhere in between.
6. Florence, Italy. Churches and tourists make easy pickings. Don’t carry a bag, hold your camera.
7. Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buenos Aires, hey, they are as likely to steal you as your wallet. No surprise there. But, they have a routine there like the girls in Bucharest, plus the bird droppings routine. White flour is dropped and then locals come and brush you down and take your wallet. Any event that happens to you, hold on to your wallet – or don’t take it.
8. Amsterdam, Netherlands. Amsterdam is there number 8. I have never had a problem there, but watch your wallet not the girls in windows. They are a distraction pick-pockets look for.
9. Athens, Greece. Parthenon or the Acropolis, or anything else in this crowded city puts this at number 9 on Trip Advisors list.
10. Hanoi, Vietnam. We did the P&O tour here and never had a problem. I never had cause to worry in Vietnam, but as Trip Advisor have it at number 10 I will watch for it next time.
Hey. Look after each other. If you want an example of where they work just look at our film of the Church of the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg.
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