In November last year 40 Chinese tourists were attacked with tear gas in the car park of the Kyriad Hotel and their luggage stolen. The gang of six people struck in the Val de Marne suburb of Paris, but this issue is becoming increasingly widespread across all parts of the city. Criminals are said to blend in with tourists in hotel lobbies before pick-pocketing or stealing luggage, and some even check into hotels under false names and scour other hotel rooms for unlocked or faulty safes.
Where in Paris?
The main area targeted by the gangs of ‘hotel rats’, aptly named because they skilfully sneak around in the background causing trouble, is the Golden Triangle around the Champs Elyseeses and surrounding shopping district. But don’t assume that because you’re staying in a prestigious hotel you’re immune either, the higher end hotels are baring the brunt of many robberies with criminals willing to take a higher risk for a higher reward.
The avenue des champs élysées. Picture credit www.julesandjulie.com
The Parisians are tackling the problem by deploying over 5000 extra police officers across the city until the end of September. They’ll be stationed in popular tourist sites such as Monmartre, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.
What can you do to keep your belongings safe?
The Foreign Office warns people to be vigilant by keeping their valuables in separate places on their person – put your wallet, passport and jewellery in separate bags and consider using a money belt to keep any larger sums of cash and credit cards safe. It’s unnecessary to carry large amounts of cash with you whilst in Paris though, you can pay by card pretty much everywhere in Paris and France so taking one or two important credit cards out with you and securing the rest in your hotel safe.
Be mindful of street performers and people stopping you to ask questions, these are tried and tested distraction techniques for thieves who work in groups to divert attention before pickpocketing. Two common ones are the ‘gold ring’ and the ‘string bracelet’, if anyone asks you if you would like either of these things (you may even have a string bracelet tied to your wrist) just keep walking and say “non-merci”.
If you’re sitting at a bar make sure not to put your phone on the bar next to you, thieves will often use distraction techniques to swipe an expensive looking piece of technology and bar staff are likely to warn you about this too.
Use a bag with zip up compartments that you can wear over your shoulder or on your front, pickpockets love to strike in crowded underground and metro carriages so be especially cautious in these situations by removing your bag and holding it close to you. Line 9 that runs from Boulogne in the west to Montreuil in the east and passes through Trocadero and the Champs Elysées is particularly notorious for resident pickpockets, as is Line 2 through the stunning Monmartre area.
The influx of tourists in Paris since the 2015 terror attack has increased opportunism for criminals, but it’s important not to be fearful, people have very rarely been hurt by the ‘hotel rats’. These are petty thieves who are interested in your belongings and valuables; use common sense and enjoy your time exploring this magnificent city.
To keep your belongings protected, make sure you are insured, you can get a quote by clicking on this link.