Paris warning

Discussion in 'Travel' started by david_manzi|2, May 30, 2013.

  1. My son is in Paris this week, and he's been sending back quite a few horror stories about the roaming thieves around the city. Nearly half of his group of 30 have either had their pockets picked or had some other article stolen. He's witnessed two armed robberies on public trains, been harrassed by the gypsies who will shove a ring or bracelet on your arm and then hound you, or threaten you to pay for it, and has had to "slap away" at least three attempts on his pockets. One woman had her camera ripped from around her neck in the Louvre!
    Just a warning, if you're going to Paris, be aware of the rampant pickpockets and thieves, especially at the tourist attractions. Watch your gear.
  2. Some camera bag/pack security ideas:
    Sling packs can be worn on the front for extra security.
    Rear access packs have the access zip on the side facing your body for extra security.
    Put a carabiner through zipper loops as a deterrent. Many more casual thieves will pass up any deterrent for easier scores.
  3. A friend if mine was robbed of his wallet on the Paris metro a year or so ago but in that case the pickpocket gang did the old catch-you-in-a-squeeze routine. It happened just as the train doors opened and he started to get off. Someone in front of him pretended to fall over, making him stop, while the rest of the gang 'accidentally' pushed into him from behind. In the confusion his wallet was stolen. He usually kept his wallet in a belt under his coat but this one time he had it in a coat pocket.
  4. We were surrounded by Gypsies near Notre Dame last summer and they tried to gang up on me because I walk with a limp and use a cane for support. My camera and wallet were in a waist pack securely around and in front of my waist and tightly zippered. Fortunately my wife and tour guides spoke French and yelled at them to get away. I also speak a little French and understood what they were saying. I also have a little law enforcement experience, and when one of them grabbed my arm, I yelled in French to get away and raised my cane-----They followed me, but eventually gave up. Be careful every where , especially in France and in crowded areas.
  5. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    I've had my fun in Paris too by professional pickpockets on the subway. I got a real show, I'll tell you, very professional. We got lucky as they didn't get it, but they are REALLY good, really fast. Inside the Louvre is a well-known place for thieves; I suppose people let their guard down once they enter. I think I heard recently they closed down the room to the Mona Lisa briefly because of this very issue.

    Italy is just as bad, if not worse in Rome especially. We had our issues with gypsies there.

    We just had a bunch of University students come back from Athens on a college trip with an even scarier, more violent happening, right near the Acropolis. Two men with knives at two of our student throats with lots of spectators looking on and not moving a muscle or calling the police. I used to just blow off tourist crime in Europe as 'a thing to be expected' in larger cities. If it continues to get more violent I can think of safer destinations.
  6. Last summer, my wife and I with all our luggage rode the RER from Charles De Gaul to the Gare de Lyon via Gare du Nord to catch the high speed train to Dijon. Aside from the appalling condition of the RER train and hygienically-challenged panhandlers, we had no trouble. However, on the way back, we got turned around in the station where we were to change from the green line to the blue line, which goes to CDG. There are no information booths, signage is pathetic (unless you are fluent in French, which we are not), and our RER tickets that were supposed to be good for the round trip apparently were not. I was getting frustrated, and actually, scared. A couple of young guys who spoke some English saw our plight, and held a turnstile open for us to get through. Had we done that in the city I live in, the transit police would come down on us like a ton of bricks. After we got through, they asked for a couple of Euro, which I gladly paid.
    In four trips to France and Paris, we have never had a problem. In fact, on last summer's trip, my wife had an accident which required a visit to the emergency room and an overnight stay in a hotel in Chalon which was not on our itinerary. We were low on cash, wet (long story), no jackets, and my wife had only one shoe. It was complicated. We were both amazed at how helpful and accommodating everyone was to us in our condition. We were able to rejoin our trip the next day and travel insurance (highly recommended) more than covered our expenses.
    I'm sad to hear people are having such bad experiences in Paris and Europe, and I hope these are isolated incidents, but if it happens to you, it is not an isolated incident. Now, if they would just do something about the RER.
  7. Strange. I've been there four or five times over the past few years, and never had any real problems. I sometimes (but not always) carry a camera bag, and just put my wallet in my front pants pocket. I see the gypsies, mostly concentrated around the central tourist sites, but they're not hard to avoid if you're alert.

    Does your son look like a tourist? I typically dress conservatively - slacks & a collared shirt, leather shoes, black coat. It's really not that hard to avoid looking overtly like an American. Once you open your mouth the jig will likely be up, but that's rarely necessary.
    Perhaps its the fact that large tourist groups are easily identified as prey, whereas singles and couples blend in better. If so, I'd recommend skipping the tourist group in the future and just exploring on your own. It's not very hard, and provides considerable freedom.
  8. Just in case people are given the impression that Europe is seething with pickpockets I think this problem applies only to a few crowded tourist sites and crowded trains at these sites. Paris seems to be the worst and while gangs of pickpockets operate in some other tourist destinations too, my experience is you would have to be really unlucky to run across one. So I suggest be aware and just take normal precautions.
  9. We were surrounded by Gypsies near Notre Dame last summer​
    Not all Gypsies are the same. I have camped on the banks of the Seinne, south of Paris, with gypsies who were some of the nicest people I have met. I would have trusted them equally to any other group of people.
  10. david_henderson


    I think its incumbent on us all to take special precautions in crowded, touristy cities where theft attempts are more common than they should be. London is by no means immune. Barcelona certainly shares the problem. I certainly feel safer -from pickpocketing, theft from cars etc in North America than I do in Europe, which I would not have said 20 years ago. I wouldn't wear a backpack in any city partly for that reason, partly because they're a pain to others in crowded locales , and a pain for me in shops, on public transport etc. Sadly the safer you make things the less convenient it is for you too.
    I agree with Steve that you can't brand any particular group as 100% thieves. It is the case though that much of this theft on the street is carried out by gangs/groups that are not of the nationality where the offence takes place, and that the incidence of these crimes has increased since the EU created free entry to all across member states.
  11. My guess is that most, if not all, posters of this thread are Americans.
  12. david_henderson


    Robert k. Outside of the fact that you're wrong, what makes you say that? There's a decent sprinkling of Europeans trying I'd guess to make sure that Americans travelling to Europe to photograph come with a realistic perspective.
  13. Robert,
    Aside from the obvious stereotyping, what difference does it make? My son visited two cities in Europe, London and Paris. He had *no* problems in London at all with pickpockets or crime. However, as soon as they deplaned in Paris, the trouble started. And while I'm not saying ALL gypsies are thieves it seemed that 90% of the time Gypsies were involved when they were either the victims of a crime or witnessed a crime. Those are the facts. So what difference doe it make where someone comes from? Do the facts change about the crime in Paris if someone from Italy reports it? Here's a report by Australians describing the crime problem in Paris, and it's effects. Maybe you'll believe them because they're not Americans.
  14. In Europe, especially in urban Italy and France, my camera is hidden by a light jacket. Any belly bag or such bag has a lock on the zippers. I carry one credit card on me; the others are in my hotel safe. I carry no wallet. The credit card is in my front pocket. Even with this, I still got it pick pocketed at the Eiffel Tower. I had the phone number to call, but the 800 number, as it does not work from Europe. When I got back to my hotel, I called the credit card company and cancelled the card. I try not to photograph by myself in these urban areas since you are not that aware of what is going on around you. I definitely do not do any photography in Paris at night. I do take the Metro, but try to take it when it is not supper crowded. Thieves do work the metros all the time so beware of them. Often they are parents with kids.
    Joe Smith
  15. I have toured and photographed most of the countries in Western Europe (and some to the East) without encountering a single criminal incident. I don't go out of my way to disguise the fact that I'm carrying cameras. I do a lot of shooting from a tripod, and half of the time I've got a DSLR hanging from my neck.
    In general, I feel significantly more secure in European city centers than I do in American cities. If you think that Paris is dangerous, try spending an afternoon in Newark. (On second thought, don't.)
    The only annoyances that I have ever witnessed in Europe were (1) a rowdy celebration at the conclusion of the European football championships (Greece won) and (2) the rather prolific sight of public urination in some countries.
    The outlying banlieus (poor neighborhoods outside of the city center) can be rough, but there aren't many tourist attractions in those locations. The RER train from CDG to Paris runs through some bleak-looking neighborhoods. At night, it might be better to take the bus.
  16. So what difference doe it make where someone comes from?​
    slightly odd to be so sensitive about racial stereotyping when you yourself appear to be railing against Gypsies, no?
  17. No, I'm not stereotyping, just passing along observations from the people on the tour. Try this: Google "Louvre Shutdown" or "Paris Gypsies" and see what you can learn from someone other than me. I don't doubt that only a small percentage of Gypsies are thieves, but it seems that a large percentage of the pickpocket gangs are Gypsies. Again, only an observation.
    And I'd still love to hear Robert's explanation of his comment.
  18. Dan, are you really comparing Newark and Paris? New York and Paris, I can see, but Newark?
  19. This will certainly be taken as racial profiling, but:
    1) Yes, very many not to say most pickpocket gangs in Western Europe are made up by Gypsies. This is a fact. They will often use kids, because kids cannot be made legally responsible of anything and even when caught, police has to return them to their parents.
    2) Part of the problem, IMHO is that in Europe you could put yourself in serious trouble by calling them Gypsies (or the equivalent expressions in various languages). That's racism. You have to call them Roma or Sinti, because this is the way they want to be called and political correctness dictate you better comply.
    There was a pretty surreal episode in Italy a couple of years ago, after a spate of particulary vicious and brutal cases of murders and rapes by Gypsies, whom the Italian media referred to as "Romanian". The Ambassador of Romania went to prime time TV news program to try to explain, those guy are not Romanian, they are Gypsies. He was called a racist, and nearly thrown out from the program.
    But all of this admittedly has nothing to do with photography.
  20. David, I was comparing European cities to American cities. Miami, Atlanta, D.C., Baltimore, Philly, Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix, Vegas, Los Angeles - take your pick. They're all more dangerous than Europe's more prominent cities.
  21. Dan, I couldn't disagree more. I've traveled all over the US on both pleasure and business, and I've never encountered a single issue in any American city. Granted, I take care and don't go into high-crime areas, but that's something you do anywhere. And comparing the pickpocket problem in Paris to that in New York is simply unrealistic. They had to shut down the Louvre for a week due to the problem! Have you ever heard of anything like this in New York? Nope. Sorry, the problem is *much* worse in Paris. That's why, when you're in the Louvre they've posted signs, large and prominent, to warn tourists that there are pickpockets in the crowd and they should take care. I've seen nothing like this in any US museum.
    BTW, my wife travels to Newark a couple of times a year on business and she's never had a problem in that city. She must be very lucky.
  22. 532 people were murdered in Chicago in 2012, a city with a population or 2.7 million. The 2013 murder rate is on a pace to exceed that figure.
    In the same year, the ENTIRE country of France had 682 murders in a population of 65 million.
    532 / 2.7 million = one person in 5000
    682 / 65 million = one person in 95,000
    The murder rate in Chicago is nineteen times that of the murder rate in France. It's not an apples to apples comparison given that I couldn't find statistics for the city of Paris. However, I believe that this supports my assertion that American cities are more dangerous than their European counterparts. Please feel free to research this further if you disagree.
    Incidentally, pickpocketing is considered "petty crime" by the authorities. It might be the case that Europe has more problems with petty crime - I didn't check. But the USA definitely has a bigger "violent crime" problem.
  23. But the USA definitely has a bigger "violent crime" problem.​
    We have the Second Amendment, and the rest of the world don't.
  24. And we don't want it!
  25. And here we go with "my nation is
    better than yours" debate with the gun
    debate thrown in for good
  26. OK, this may be my last post, but when comparing crime stats, using Chicago is a really bad example. Gun ownership is illegal in Chicago. And yet, for some reason, they have a high murder rate. Go figure. Disarm the honest people, and what happened? However, no arguments as to the violent crime problem in the US; it's serious. But I still feel US cities are relatively safe as I walked the streets of NYC, Boston, and a few others over the past two years many, many times at night with no issues.
    As for petty crime, I have yet to see any US city that's as bad as Paris when it comes to pickpockets and street crime. This isn't a US vs the world issue, just an observation that's fully supported by news stories from a wide variety of sources. I don't recall any museums or tourist attractions that have closed due to the problem, much less posted large warning signs about them. Also, my son spent a week in London and there was NO such problem. Quite the opposite. When one of their group accidentally dropped a wallet a total stranger picked it up, read the name on the license inside, and shouted the name to make sure the owner got the wallet back. His experience, and that of the others in the group of 30 was excellent in London. Paris, well, the school that conducted the tour has given up and taken Paris off their list. After the trouble this year, they've had it.
  27. Sidebar: Violent crime in the Americas is a complex problem. Much of it is caused by battles between gangs involved in the illegal drug trade.
    The Second Amendment has no impact on the laws of Mexico or Honduras (the country with the world's worst murder rate). So on one hand, it's a red herring. On the other hand, many of the firearms used by gangs throughout the Americas were purchased legally at US gun dealers and then resold.
    Resolution would require changes to both drug laws and gun laws as well as economic reform and widespread modification of attitudes toward violence. Such change tends to encounter significant political resistance in the USA. Only a massive grass roots movement will be able to unlock the current political stalemate in Washington.
  28. Dan, although we're very off topic here, I couldn't agree more. Violent crime is a huge and very complex, and simply shouting "outlaw guns" solves nothing.
    As far as DC goes, well, it's embarrassing, regardless of which side of the aisle you're on. Better to end this thread in agreement, no?
  29. I agree, using one of the most violent cities in the US isn't really valid. How many people were murdered in Oxford, Mississippi? Or Vero Beach, Florida? Big cities everywhere have big problems. Guns are not the problem in the US. Uneducated, violent desperate people are the problem. Broken homes, a broken economy (lots of outsourcing and incompetent, dishonest politicians), a media that is violent and dumbed down, a capitalistic system that essentially uses people up, age discrimination, racism, drug addiction, etc. There are a lot of things to point a finger at. My gun just sits here. It kills no one. But if someone breaks into my home and threatens my family, then that's what it's for. All I need is a rock or a kitchen knife really, but by that time it's probably too late.
    This is a real heads up reading this, as I always assumed that the US was where the real danger existed. Except for Mexico. I wouldn't go there on a bet. Totally out of control. Or Haiti. Or a lot of other places actually, when I think about it. If you live in a small American town it may be boring, but it isn't particularly unsafe.
    I've been a victim of crime several times, and a lot of it happened in Washington, D.C. The people that did it were black, the people in Paris apparently are Gypsies. Desperate people do desperate things, and as long as they are discriminated against and marginalized, you get cause and effect.
  30. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    This is a travel forum so I imagine that people here are concerned with dangers or problems involved when going to different countries. If people go to Paris they want to visit the Louvre, Eiffel tower and other tourist spots to take photos and enjoy a different culture. It is a pity that crime at those locations is bad. Those warnings are valid. I have my doubts that many people here want to go to Chicago to sell drugs on the street, wear their gang colors onto another gangs turf and go around in poor and dangerous neighborhoods dissing angry young gangstas or stirring up domestic violence.
  31. We just returned from Paris a week ago and had no trouble at all. Perhaps going the week after the Louvre shut down for a day in protest was a good thing. Pickpocket activity may have consequently been low.

    In preparation I did carry cash, cards, and our passports in a money belt. Cameras, iPad, etc were carried in a Maxpedition sling (Remora) that would have been very difficult to snatch from me without a physical struggle. The walking stick I carried may have discouraged that. Despite embedding myself in the crowd in front of the Mona Lisa I was somewhat disappointed that the empty wallet I carried in my back pocket came home with me.
  32. Just a warning, if you're going to Paris, be aware of the rampant pickpockets and thieves​
    On reflection I can see and perfectly understand that you are worrying about your son thousands of miles away in a foreign country David, but to be painfully blunt I think you're being a bit of a big girl's blouse about the situation. Paris has always had it's rough sides, you only have to walk a few metres from the Gare Du Nord to see it but honestly, pull yourself together man- it's Paris! It's also charming and beautiful too, he'll have had a great time...really.
  33. Yeah but in Chicago murder is considered a sport. Everybody it seems is tryin' to beat Big Al Capone's record on Valentine's Day no less.
  34. It would be interesting to correlate these widely disparate opinions about Paris with the amount of time people have actually spent there.
    I have a hard time believing that a group of thirty young tourists actually witnessed two armed robberies within a week. Those must have been some brazen robbers (or incredibly stupid) to pull out weapons in front of such a large audience. Were the kids questioned by police officers? Do they have a date to return to France to testify in court? It all sounds a little fishy.
    I have lived in and/or worked in New York City for nearly two decades, and I have NEVER witnessed an armed robbery. I have been to Paris eight or ten times over the year, and I have never witnessed a violent crime, and none of my travel companions ever had a pocket picked or a purse snatched. I think these kids might be exaggerating a tad.
  35. David, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there weren't a few big girl's blouses at the Louvre, just as there are endless media organisations that like to get their knickers in a twist reporting hysteria. My advice to you is to stop spending hours trawling the internet for scurrilous stories to substantiate your fears and go there yourself and have a great time. Bon Voyage!
  36. Andrew, you are sadly mistaken. I didn't troll the internet looking for stories until I heard from my son and the rest of the people in his group. I had no idea this problem existed. And as far as being overly concerned, well, I'm not and wasn't. My son is very capable of taking care of himself. You can deny all you want. It's a real problem over there.
    When was your last trip to Paris?

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