"SECURITY:A dirty b. pinched my wallet!!!+ FIRE !!!" Personal Page by pedroswift


I remember going to the pictures on Saturday afternoons during my pre- teen years to see the mandatory Western Movie. One of the important Life's Lessons learned from the heroes of those movies was "Never sit drinking rye whisky with your back to the bat-winged doors of the saloon especially if you don't want to be shot in the back by the bad guys"!!
"What's that got to do with being a tourist today?" you may well ask. I'm seeing and hearing more and more stories here on VT and other places about crimes committed against tourists by pickpockets and thieves. The bad guys are still out there looking to plug some unsuspecting person sitting with his back to the door.

Can you and I avoid becoming victims?

Can you and I avoid becoming victims? Yes! We can! It's all about "Risk Assessment & Management" ie figuratively speaking, avoiding sitting with our backs to the door.
Don't forget, the bad guy does his own "Risk Assessment". He walks to the bat-winded doors peeks inside and there is our hero sitting confidently with a beady eye on all entry/exit points, back to the wall, consciously aware of all that is going on about him. The thong on the holster that keeps his gun in place has been eased. He's ready for action. He is Prepared "pre" = before: He's set himself up before leaving home! Importantly - He is Spatially Aware. What does the baddie do? He chickens-out & heads off to the next saloon looking for a "victim". He finds the new-chum fresh off the stagecoach shouting drinks for the locals, totally oblivious to the fact that flaunting wealth in this town and standing with your back to the door is an invitation to Boot Hill.
For you and me, it's all about Spatial Awareness - Confidence - Minimising Risk. Factors which we take for granted. They are automatic: are they not? No. I don't think so.
I believe we have differing Common Sense Quotients. We should consciously prepare ourselves with regards these factors. The "natural victims" of this world have low common sense quotients, fail to be aware of their surroundings outside of a narrow area, transmit a sense of bewilderment, fail to assess the probable outcomes of their behavior, fail to read the warning signs.
Combine low commonsense quotient with over optimism ("It'll never happen to me!") plus an unqualified trust in strangers ("Madam, What a pretty little child you have there!") & you have the perfect patsie: "victim of the year" 3 years in a row.

Are you a "Victim"?

Who are the "victims" of crime that we hear about ? Are they locals living in the cities most often mentioned.?
No. Locals know the ropes. They walk down the street with purpose, with confidence, exuding the message "get in my way & I'll trample all over you!". The locals are aware of their immediate surroundings and what is happening at the next street corner and beyond. They are Spatially Aware. They don't openly carry street maps. They don't stop to talk to strangers. Try to distract them by asking the time or street directions and you'll be ignored or told to *** off. They are not easy meat for the bad guy. The bad guy finds a "victim".
The "victim", more than likely, is ambling along mouth agape looking no further than the shop window in front and exuding an air of " I'm the Weakest-member-of-the-herd! " inviting the wolves to cut him or her out! They carry their purses/bags over their shoulders with the flap facing rearwards, tourist map in hand, distracted from their immediate surroundings. They hang purses full of good things to pinch over the back of their chairs or put the purse on the floor. They remove their wallets from hip pockets to get their train ticket outside the station on the sidewalk for all to see.

Be prepared before leaving home!

Doing the "Risk Assessment" begins at home considering the possibilities.
Where am I most likely to be targeted by the baddies?
From my reading - any big city.
Where in that city? Around transport places - train, plane, boat and bus stations. In or on the bus, boat or train. Around places where you reveal the colour of your money - how much you carry and where on your person. Around ATMs. Around ATMs in or close to the transport places. Around well frequented ie crowded places where inadvertent contact with other bodies is not unusual. One bump on the back & it's gone! Where weary or jet lagged travellers are at their most vulnerable. Where they are distracted by unfamiliar surroundings and routines.
Where else? Anywhere that the baddies acting as a team can surround or distract you. The trinket vendor on the footpath. The gypsy woman with the pack of kids. The street urchins.
Be on guard whenever some "theatre" designed to distract you is going on....even two old guys arguing in the check out line at the supermarket!!!
Totally ignore the reasonably well dressed guy who asks if the nice gold ring he just happened to pick up from the pavement was dropped by you. He will be persistent... offering it to you because it doesn't fit or suit him. Give him the flick...he's after your money!
Be careful when you are at your worst - jet lagged or tired from carting that 35 kg luggage up the metro stair case. (You have to downsize that bag!)
What most often gets pinched? Wallets carried in hip pockets. Wallets/cellphones carried in front pockets or coat pockets. Stuff removed from purses carried over the shoulder. Purses placed where they can be shifted by persons adjacent or passers by. Stuff removed from backpacks. Valuables left in locked cars but visible to all. Luggage stolen from locked cars left unattended in places frequented by tourists or hire/leased cars obviously belonging to tourists. Luggage left unattended or very loosely attended in or near transport places.

You've done the homework and you're aware of the trouble spots.
How can you prepare before you leave to stay out of trouble?

Do you have to carry a wallet? Do you really need a cellphone or laptop?
Why not purchase a money belt or pouch to put under your clothes. No! not the external bum-bag thing! or Get your mum to sew an inside pocket into your waistband. Do you have to carry a purse? If you do, is it a stoutly made one with hard-to-get-at opening devices? Do you carry it in front of your body not behind? Can you work out a way of carrying passport, credit card, money on your person in separate places. How often do you hear of people losing the lot? Only carry enough cash for day use in a front pocket! Be discreet accessing your secure pouch. Can you secure most of your valuables in an hotel safe? If the office safe requires you to hold on to a key, do you have a lanyard with clip to hang that key around your neck close to your body. (charge for losing it is hundreds of dollars).
Photo down page shows the cloth bag I hang around my neck under my shirt. It has pockets big enough for passport and credit card(s) Yes the items go inside: not as in photo!!. The shirt (Huski brand in Aust.) has double breast pockets with zip closures that have fabric flaps covering the zips. Some shirts have concealed inner pocket(s).
Will you be getting travel insurance to cover stolen property/money.
Do you have the phone numbers to cancel stolen cards?
Do you & your partner have totally separate credit/debit cards? - no point in having same account - if one card goes the other has to be cancelled also. Can you access copies of passport& other important travel documents if yours are stolen?
Do you discuss the dangers with your partner or travelling companion(s)?
Do you "watch each others backs" so to speak? Are you both pro-actively accessing the risks as you move around pointing out to each other potential dangers? "See that pack of brats 200metres up the road. Lets cross to other footpath!" etc etc.

Tales of Woe

1. In Rome. Lady at our B&B. paid no heed to the warnings about the notorious Bus 64. Lost the lot: money, cards, passport. She actually moved to check out the gypsy's baby. Fell for the three card trick. In this case the three arm trick. Gypsy had false arm in sling holding baby while real one does the purse opening.

2. New York. Friends sitting at the bar. She with purse on the floor under the bar stool. Bloke sitting eating at table close to bar reached out (unseen) with foot to recover purse. Luckily passport was in hotel safe but over a thousand dollars put on the credit card within minutes of losing the purse. See the handbag Hooker photo. Keeps the bag in sight right next to you!

3. Aussie bloke with family last year in Paris. Took 600 euro out of ATM. Walked only a few metres to Metro actually stuffing the folded bills into his wallet as he walked. Put wallet into hip pocket. On entering the train felt a push. Looked around. Door had closed. No one there. Wallet was on floor minus bills. Only thing he didn't do was carry a sign in 3 languages saying "600 euro! Come and get it!"

4. I know of two Brisbane couples who , in separate incidents, had everything stolen from them in Southern France recently. Yes, EVERYTHING not bolted to the car. Luggage was out of sight in the boot/trunk of locked hire cars parked in touristy locations.

5. See vt Forum posting.
Another article on Barcelona pickpockets
Read this advice on Barcelona ...every tip is transferable to other cities & situations!
Do a VT Keywords Search - type in "pickpockets" for 8 pages of Warnings for nearly every big city in the world. Seriously, one has to take heed!

6. Check Kate's story on the flow-on from having her credit cards pick-pocketed.here.
Check this story on being robbed at Lourdes possibly in church!!

7. Some anecdotes I've noted in VT forums. "I don't worry about using a secure place under my clothes . Can't be bothered & I've only ever lost all my money, my credit cards and my passport once" - that's one time too often in my book
One Londoner made a revealing comment on VT. He had done everything right during his 2 weeks in Europe. However, when he got back to Heathrow he relaxed his guard thinking , "I'm home and hosed" - his carry-on gear plus lap-top were snitched from under his nose while he waited for his checked bags.

8. More stories from other web pages.

9. Would you do this??? Take the family to the beach in the hire car. Leave the car keys with the towels while you all go for a swim. Yes ! Someone did & their credit card was debited for the total cost of the car by the hire company in Spain.

10. Recent posting on vt re RER from CDG to Gare d'Nord: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/ae149/#TL revealing the absolute necessity to catch an express train : not the one stopping at all of the towns housing the "have-nots" between CDG and the city. Air France Bus /taxi or shuttle may be better option anyway.
Here is another one....Help Me Decide : Paris - Getting from CDG to Gare du Nord .Posted: Wed January 4, 2012 02:19 AM EST
"My itinerary however, includes some shopping that I need to do in Champs Elysees. My main concern is the security in Paris as I was pickpocketed on the train, after a red eye flight, distracted and luggage in hand, from CDG to Gare du Nord on a train (the one that stops at every suburban station) 2 years back." Read more: http://forum.virtualtourist.com/discussion-583667-1-1-Travel-0-0-Paris-discussion.html

another tale Smash & Grab from Paris Taxi Read about getting robbed between CDG and Paris centre while riding in a taxi. URL: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/22fe86/

"You and I can learn something"

I'd like to think that you and I can learn something from these tales of woe. Tale #4 has been a wake up call for me. I like doing road trips & do at least one every other year in France. I've always carried photo copies of all documents (including credit cards) in my checked-in luggage. What good is that if every thing I own (other than what I have on me while site seeing) is stolen?? From now on I shall be putting the copies of said documents on a secure web wage. Or attaching them to an email sent to myself. I will not be copying credit cards. note: (2008) I now have pdf s of all documentation stored on a memory-stick that hangs around my neck.
I will try to check into my accommodation while in Southern France ( & elsewhere), unload the luggage from car, then drive to the remote tourist spot.
If I do any train travel, I'll buy something to secure luggage to the stowage racks.
I'm naturally a pessimist. (I think the beer glass is half empty: not half full). I have never had my wallet stolen because I don't carry it in big-city-situations. I'm not paranoid : I just can't afford to lose my hard earned money! Can you?


1. minimise the risks - prepare before departure - buy some hardware - don't put all your resources in one basket
2. don't think because you've done 30 thousand kms in foreign territory it won't happen to you!
3. read about others' woes - learn from their experiences
4. be spatially aware - look beyond the immediate - look & listen for potential risks (can you do that with an i-pod plugged in yer ears?)
5. only carry on your person the minimum required for the outing
6. protect each others backs - promote awareness by talking about the risks
7. don't think/act like a victim - there's no doubt : the wolves are about!!

Hotel Fires : Yes, they happen!!

Ever since staying in outback Queensland Hotels during my formative years, I have always taken the time to develop an evacuation plan whenever I check into an hotel or even stay at a friends house. Back in the 60's there was a spate of fires in old wooden country pubs. Some were fatal.

As soon as I arrive in my hotel room these days I check behind the door for the "fire evacuation plan". I check that the window can be opened easily. If it can't I ask for a room with window that opens.
With my partner, I then find the exit stair-well for that floor noting on what side of the passage it is on and how many doors from my room it is. Yes I count the doors! I know that using elevators (lifts) is an absolute No-No in the case of Fire Evacuation!!
I then do a practice fire drill. I take my room key with me as I exit the room. I say aloud, "turn left/right , left/right of corridor; one, two, three, however many doors on the left/right" find the exit door. I then use that stair well down to the lobby and basement to check that there is access to those floors.
Later I will climb to the roof and check the door to the roof.
At night, the room key is by my bed (next to my l.e.d. flashlite) ready to pickup in-case of a fire alarm. It will allow me to return to my room if that is the best option.
I also do a circumnavigation of the outside of the building to identify my room window and check for external escape routes & get a feel for the area. Often there are external fire escape stairs or ladders. Did this check during recent stay in Istanbul & discovered the external fire stairs had cleaning materials stowed on landings on nearly every floor!!! Also check for potential hazard areas gas/fuel/flammable liquid storage to avoid if there was a fire.

During my stay at the venue I will use the stair well several times - each time intoning the verbal description "turn l/r, 1,2,3 etc etc" thereby building a cognitive map of the lay out. It's called Conditioning. It could save my life.

Your's too if you care to develop this habit!

I should be able to exit my room and find the stairwell blindfold Without Panic.
In the event of a fire, smoke may render visual orientation impossible. It could be night time with lights faulty or non-existent. In the event of an actual evacuation, I could be crawling on hands and knees to lessen smoke inhalation.

Take the time to think about your fire evacuation plan! Read more about survival techniques provided by The U. S. State Department.

  • Page Updated Aug 23, 2013
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