Pickpocket Prevention

Sarah Beck
January 12, 2006

Florence is a relatively safe place, but as in every big city, petty crime such as pick pocketing and bag snatching is quite common, even though statistics show that reported incidents of pick pocketing in Italy have decreased by 11.4% over the last 8 years and bag snatching has been reduced by 22%. To ensure the safety of both yourself and your belongings it is necessary to be streetwise and use your common sense. This applies to students, tourists, foreigners and Italians alike.


1)Make sure to weed out all the unnecessary items from your bag, from your Blockbuster card to your driving license, from photos of friends to any currency from home. All you need is a photocopy of your passport, student card, cash, one credit/debit card, mobile phone and the latest copy of The Florentine! Your passport is the only form of valid ID in Italy so use the hotel safe or find a safe place in your room for that, your credit card numbers, the phone number to cancel credit cards and then stick the photos of family up on your mirror.


2) When leaving your apartment or hotel room, make sure your shutters or windows are firmly closed and all expensive equipment and important documents are out of sight. Lock the door behind you if you are the last one to leave; some of the spring locks in the doors require the key to be turned at least three or four times. Never attach your address to your keys.


3) Be wary of tactics to distract you. Dropped change, a spilt cappuccino or a beggar waving a cardboard sign in your face could all be tried and tested techniques to steal from you. Always have a good grip on your bag, with the zip front-facing and bags with long straps crossed lengthwise over your shoulder and body. Wallets should be kept in front or internal pockets, backpacks should be worn front-facing in busy areas and consider buying a small padlock as a deterrent.


4) When out in a restaurant, internet café, bar or similar don’t just leave your bag on the back of your chair where you can’t keep an eye on it. It’s a good idea to slip the handle around your chair leg, wedge it between your feet or keep it on your lap.


5) When travelling around Italy you’re just as much at risk as you are back “home” in Florence, if not more. To check into hotels and hostels you’ll need your actual passport so don’t forget it, keep it in an internal pocket or money belt. Always keep an eye on your backpack or luggage, for example if possible store it above your head on the train and not at the end of the carriage. I’ll never forget a story I heard about the unsuspecting coach driver loading the passengers’ suitcases onto the coach one side and thieves the other side promptly unloading them and walking off with them!


Finally, should the unthinkable happen and something is lost or stolen, get in touch with the relevant authorities (see point 6), and don’t let it ruin your holiday or mar your opinion of the city.


Occasionally there’s a heart-warming story such as the wallet stripped of its cards and cash found on a bus in Rome and brought to Florence to be reunited with its owner! Or even the bag that was stolen, emptied of most documents bar the home address in the U.S., but found by a good Samaritan who sent it in the post to the States. Imagine their surprise!


6) Cancel credit and debit cards as soon as possible; replacements can be sent over in three to four days. Keep all the details and phone numbers in a safe place in your room. For lost or stolen passports get in touch with your nearest Consulate or Embassy here in Florence, Rome or Milan. To report stolen property in Florence go to the Carabinieri (military wing of the Police force) station in Borgo Ognissanti, 48. For insurance purposes you’ll probably need a copy of your denuncia, police report, from the Carabinieri.


So think smart, be safe and you’ll still have money left for those January sales that are just round the corner!

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