March 22, 2010

Pick pockets in Paris Metro

Picket pocket Sunday... I will call it! Well, an attempt, at least! I am proud of my very quick and effective reaction to a pick pocket attempt yesterday on the metro #4 line at Denfert Rochereau direction Porte de Clignacourt.

Setting: Metro quay, uncrowded on mid Sunday afternoon.

Usually I am ALWAYS aware of my surroundings when I am walking in the streets of Paris or on the Metro/RER. This time, though I looked around me... I was also conversing with the ladies I was with (from Philly) so my attention wasn't 100% like usual. Still, I noticed nothing suspicious on the quay. I noted that there were hardly any people and that as the metro pulled up... it was crowded.

Action: My two friends enter first and I get in last. They sit down and the wagon is half empty. Plenty of seats. We were by the door and my friends were sitting in the pull down seats. Three other young French adults were also sitting down in the area. As I stood there by the open door talking to my friends, I became suddenly aware of someone's presence practically pasted to me. As I turn my head, there is a young person (anywhere from 16- 19) standing right up against me in a VERY uncrowded wagon.. I look down and notice that her sweatshirt is COMPLETELY covering the top of my bag... i.e., she had placed her sweatshirt over my bag so that she could help herself to the contents.

*Side note - When I go up to Paris I ALWAYS carry a purse that goes over my shoulder and that I have draped around my front body, so that I can see it at all times... But, today... that purse was in a plastic bag inside the bag and then placed inside the main bag I was carrying... because I had spilled my water bottle in it and was soaking wet.... Because of the wet hand bag, I had taken both my camera and my wallet and placed it openly in the open bag.. making it "fair game" to anyone who wanted to steal it!)

How I reacted instantly: As soon as I saw that she had placed her sweatshirt over my bag... I gave her a dirty look... YANKED my bag away and pushed her slightly away from me. She quickly stepped down off the metro. At that exact moment that I looked in my bag to see if she had taken my wallet or anything else... The conductor announced in French: Attention! Il y a des pick pockets dans le train!" When I heard this announcement, I went to the door, looked out and saw the girl who tried to pick pocket me, know standing about 30 25 feet away with about 4 other young girls. I immediately pointed and yelled out, "C'est elle, C'est elle!"
About 30 seconds later... the metro doors closed and the drove away!
I am VERY happy that I reacted so quickly and I think if she had got something out of my bag, since she was still there, I would have gone after here right away! That's me... I'm only sorry that I didn't slap her in the process. I'm not a violent person, but it would have served her right!
A few months ago, Alex and I watched a long report on tv about the bands of Bosnian teens who are notorious pick pocketers on the metros and RERs in Paris... I'm not even really sure about the gypsies but I know they also do this kind of thing, too.. I see them "working" the metro and RER lines with music and begging... but I've never yet seen one in the act of pick pocketing... though I have been curious....
I looked up "Paris pick pockets in the metros" on Google and came up with this link: HERE.
Anyone traveling to Paris or any other big city should be aware of their surroundings and on the alert for potential incidents. It's the first time in almost 4 years that something like this has ever happened to me... but in a way... (not to blame myself)... I think I was a great "target" for them.


David said...

I don't think that Rom gypsies are pickpocketing that much, they are too "visible" and don't want to get into trouble with the police (they have families and such, getting kicked out of the country is not something they want to happen to them).
On the other hand, the Bosnian girls have literally taken over the pickpocketing business in France.
They're young (minors, so they can't go to jail, neither get kicked out of the country), almost look like normal teenage girls, and are nonthreatening.

I "know" them (not personally, I just see them a lot on line 4 and 1 -they happen to be the two lines I take more or less daily as well as the two lines where they "work" the most) and I'm always baffled by how tourists so don't pay attention to them and are scared of ghetto guys that would never ever attack them in the metro.

To not be a target, the key is to not look like a tourist to them. I know, easier said than done when you're a foreigner (康代 has "met" them too one day, but she reacted the proper way), and the reaction to have when confronted to them is the one you had: push them away, they'll never be violent, they'll just run away, call them out if the situation calls for it, and if you got something stolen, call the police right away. You can kiss your money goodbye but there are good chances that your wallet is in a trashcan somewhere in the station with your ID and the pictures of your loved one (they get rid of things that could be evidence against them as soon as possible)

Leesa said...

Hey D...

Thanks for your comment! I was actually "waiting" for you... hahaa -- and had a feeling you'd comment right away!
I'm really surprised myself that I was such an obvious "target" - looking back, I know I was!
One thing I wasn't really paying attention to was the fact that the metro quay and train were so void of passengers - I'm much more weary when it's crowded and sometimes while waiting for my train, I often look around to see if I can "spot" anyone suspicious, which I always can...
I also move quickly away from people who get to close and I'm pretty much always "en garde."
I'm surprised I don't know these Bosnian girls by "face" since I'm always on the 4, myself.. and it's the line that I actually feel most comfortable on.. hmmm (not up past Chatelet, though).
Anyhow.. I am just glad that I reacted quickly and she didn't get away with anything... I'm surprised they would even try it when there were so few people on the train... but maybe Sunday is their "practice day." hahaha
I know the situation with the police being able to do anything is tricky... as you said, they're minors and I'm sure they carry no I.D. with them...
Would it help the police more if some type of law was passed to make conviction easier and add a viable punishment? What are your thoughts?

Leesa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Leesa said...

Hi Lydia!

Welcome to my blog and thanks for leaving a comment!
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Take care,

David said...

Yeah, those girls have no ID, are obviously illegal immigrants but can't be kicked out. When the police arrests them, they always give the same last name which basically is the Bosnian "Smith."
And I don't think that more punitive laws are the answer, we have way too many already. And seriously, would you want to send those 12 year old girls to jail, when they're as much a victim as the people they rob (or even more, robbed people will just get traumatized a bit, but then move back to their normal life, those girls have a crappy life and no way out).

The real solution is the same as the real solution to curb illegal immigration: that rich countries stop exploiting poor countries and things like that.

Leesa said...

D-- I know...

I saw one of my RATP Police "friends" yesterday at Bourg la Reine.. and he said there isn't anything the police can do either... esp. since they are mineurs and have no ID....
Your solution sounds perfect... If only..... right!!!

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

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Leesa said...

Hi Diane~

Welcome to my blog and thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment! It's nice to have you à bord - Bienvenue!!

Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

all, these are not bosnian girls! i heard them once in metro, they have serbian accent.

Leesa said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment. I'm only going by the information I heard during the tv report about it.. Not sure but thanks for the info... Leesa