Pickpockets – Put Them Out of Business

On a busy afternoon metro ride in Rome, Italy, a friend of mine had his wallet stolen from one of the pockets on his cargo shorts. You know the kind. The pocket down low on the leg, secured with a small patch of Velcro. The robbery happened when my friend was exiting a carriage, and he has played the event back in his mind enough times to know exactly when the theft occurred. There was a young woman who appeared confused about which way to go, stopping in the flow of commuters right in front of him, as we all exited the train. He was then jostled by the crowd piling up behind. He is sure that’s when his wallet was taken.

Experts say to keep wallets and other important belongings in front pockets. The pockets with closures on cargo shorts, for example, seem secure. But I guess not. I’m a fan of carrying little to nothing when venturing out in a big city, especially in touristy areas that will be congested. Just a little cash, a rail ticket, and my phone. All in front pockets.

When out and about with all my worldly goods, I keep my passport, important papers, and most of my cash in a money belt around my waist beneath my outerwear. The types of money belts that hang around your neck work well, too, but I’ve found that people tend to pull them out for one transaction or another and leave them out far too long. Bad form, that.

There was a travel expert on TV some years ago who went to really sketchy places in the world and kept his important items in a pocket he had sewn to the inside of his pants. He had to sort of disrobe every time to get to anything, but all was secure—as much as could be.

Advice for Women

The best way to carry a bag with a strap is to position the strap over the shoulder and neck, ensuring the bag hangs under a preferred arm. If there is a zipper, snaps, or other closures, use them, and if the purse/bag opens on one side, rather than the top, carry the purse/bag with that opening toward your body.

Secure Your Camera

Once, in a plaza in a large South American city, I witnessed an elderly man have his camera grabbed right from his arm, the man being knocked down hard to the cement in the process. He yelled tremendously and consequently received attention, but by then, the thief was in full sprint toward an alleyway and quickly gone, camera in hand.

It’s hard to be prepared for an attack like that. But we should all do what we can. Being vigilant and carrying our precious items in the most secure way possible will put the bad guys out of business.

Don’t Be Silly

In a tourist town on the Italian coast, I saw a couple at a sidewalk café leave a daypack unattended on the outside edge of the table section. The woman left it there while visiting the facilities, and her partner was on the other side of the table, unable to see or to protect the daypack. They were very lucky not to have had it swiped. It would have been so simple. Please don’t encourage thieves in this way.

Another couple we met on the train on that same trip had a daypack stolen—with both of their passports, credit cards, and most of their cash for a week’s stay on the coast. Fortunately, they had paid in advance for their hotel room and had enough pocket money between the two of them to eat on until they could obtain replacements.

When I have talked to people who have had personal items stolen, they confess that it was their lack of vigilance that resulted in the theft and the subsequent issues of replacing those items—including laptops, passports, and money. Big hassle, that.

None of us want to be hyper vigilant all the time we are trying to relax on vacation, so use a little common sense, and prepare before leaving your hotel room, condo, or whatever. Carry as little as possible, and make sure what you have is difficult for thieves to get at.

There are many good articles on the web about this topic. Spend a bit of time familiarizing yourself with other tactics to . . . put those pickpockets out of business.

Here is a link to some of Rick Steves’s tips: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/theft-scams/outsmarting-pickpockets

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