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Safety Advice for Paris

Pickpockets

Each year some 2,000 Americans report their passports stolen or lost in Paris. Many of them are the victims of pickpockets operating in areas frequented by tourists, particularly museums, crowded subways and train stations. Foreign tourists are easy to spot by their language, clothes, guidebooks and cameras. Pickpockets assume that tourists carry lots of cash and that they are sufficiently preoccupied with their unfamiliar surroundings to be vulnerable.

Professional pickpockets often work in pairs or larger groups. The victim rarely knows what has happened until he discovers his wallet missing, and recalls that earlier in the day he was jostled on the subway. A lady’s handbag with a zipper or clasp is no problem for a pickpocket if it is dangling carelessly out of the owner’s sight, or lying on the floor in a restaurant or shop; about 70 percent of the victims in Paris are women. Likewise, a man’s outside pocket is easy for a pickpocket to access.

In general, all the pickpocket wants is your money. Unfortunately, he/she usually gets other things too, because many tourists carry all their documents in “convenient” travel wallets. The tourist who loses his or her passport, identification, tickets, cash, credit cards and travelers checks at the same time is in real trouble. Although the wallet minus cash is often discarded by the thief and eventually turned to the Paris “Lost and Found” office, the victim’s vacation may be ruined, as he will already have spent a lot of time replacing lost credit cards, driver’s license, tickets, etc. Please warn your traveling companions, family members, or house guests to be especially careful with their valuable documents and money.

The following may help you avoid becoming a victim:

  • Carry with you only what you need; leave in your hotel safe such valuables as jewelry, Euro passes (Eurail,) airline tickets, travelers’ checks, credit cards, extra cash, and your passport.
  • Once inside France, American tourists are not required to carry their passports at all times; a student card or driver’s license is usually sufficient if you are asked by a police officer for identification. Carry your passport separately from your wallet or handbag. This is not always feasible for women, but men can carry their passports in a front pants pocket instead of their inside jacket pocket. DON’T have one family or group member carry everyone’s passport; never put all of a group’s passports in the same bag or briefcase.
  • Hold your purse or shoulder bag tightly under your arm when in crowds. Keep it on your lap or in full sight in restaurants and public places. On the street, a woman should walk some distance from the curb and carry her handbag under the arm away from the street to prevent motorcycle thieves from grabbing it. Do not stand too close to the curb while waiting to cross a street. Be alert for groups of noisy children who swarm about you with distracting signs or papers begging for money. Despite their youth, they are among the best pickpockets in Paris.
  • DON’T leave your valuables in a locked car; locks are easily jimmied by experts; the trunk is not safe either.
  • DON’T resist if you are mugged; you can get badly hurt. If you catch a pickpocket in the act,
  • DON’T go for him unless a police officer is nearby; some pickpockets carry knives.
  • DON’T go into shock. We know it hurts to get robbed. If you are robbed, ask immediately for the location of the nearest police station (commissariat.) Each of Paris’ 20 districts (arrondissements) has three or four commissariats; train stations also have one. Report the theft or loss to the police, who will give you a Récépissé de Declaration de Perte ou de Vol; this receipt is useful for insurance purposes as well as temporarily covering the loss of your identification documents. If you lose your passport or need other assistance, report the theft to the American Embassy.

Practical advice to help you to enjoy your stay in France:

Your money:

  • Carry the smallest amount of cash possible;
  • Put your money in several different places on your person (handbags, pockets, etc.);
  • Use bank notes of small or medium denomination.

Credit cards

  • Keep the PIN numbers secret at all times, do not throw away receipts, note your credit card numbers and keep it separately to inform your bank if the cards are stolen or lost.

Your Passport and Driver’s license

  • Make photocopies of your passport and driver‘s license (this will be of help if the originals are lost or stolen.);
  • If you are a tourist, write down carefully your temporary address and always keep it with you;
  • Do not write your name and address on your key-ring.

In public places, particularly in public transport (bus, subway, RER)

  • NEVER leave your luggage unattended;
  • Be cautious if caught in provoked jostles;
  •  Ensure that the opening of your handbag is facing toward you;
  • Do not carry valuables in your side or back pockets.

Preventing theft from parked vehicles

  • Leaving displayed property in your vehicle increases the risks of theft. A few simple precautions will help the police better protect you against this type of theft;
  • Parked vehicles: avoid leaving any valuables (cameras, clothes…) inside your vehicle;
  •  Keeping your car safe; even while driving, close the windows and lock the doors, including the trunk.

For more information please refer to Country Information for France and International Travel on the State Department website pages, and the French police website page.