Are you planning a trip to Paris soon? You might be wondering if there are pickpockets in the city of lights. We’ve got you covered!
Paris is one of the most romantic and beautiful cities in the world visited by millions of people each year. However, Paris has built a reputation for being one of the cities with the most active pickpockets.
This raises many concerns among visitors in terms of their safety and how likely it is for them to get pickpocketed and whether there are indeed many pickpockets in Paris.
Yes, there are pickpockets in Paris. Pickpockets in Paris can be found in crowded areas and busy streets, on the public transport system, in public venues, and around tourist attractions. People in Paris are most likely to be pickpocketed while using the metro system.
If you are traveling to Paris and wondering what the situation with the pickpockets right now is, continue reading below. I share more helpful and detailed information about what to expect and what you should know in order to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable stay in this beautiful city.
In a hurry? Here are the key points to remember:
Is There a Lot of Crime in Paris?
Overall, Paris is amongst the safest cities in the world especially considering its size. However, it is not the safest city when it comes to petty crime. Even when we compare Paris to New York City, we can see that many consider NYC to be slightly safer in some regards. But with cities of that caliber, it is normal to have some petty crimes.
Over the years, the crime levels in France, in general, have been going down. Paris, too, is not what it once was. Today it is much safer compared to 20 or more years ago.
Why Are There So Many Pickpockets in Paris?
Paris has a reputation for being a city with a significant pickpocket problem.
Paris has many pickpockets because it is a very popular tourist destination. With so many tourists visiting Paris each year, some of which are not always taking good care of their belongings, pickpockets have many opportunities to steal cash, wallets, phones, IDs, bank cards, and other valuables.
Paris is visited by more than 30 million tourists each year. Tourists usually carry cash, bank cards, and other valuables, which naturally attract pickpockets from many countries around Europe. They can be of any race, age, and ethnicity.
Pickpockets are opportunists. Their victims are often people who are distracted, not paying attention to their surroundings, or not taking good care of their belongings. Pickpockets can target drunk people or the elderly, too.
Furthermore, pickpockets are sneaky. Even if they are caught, they can quickly leave and act as if nothing has happened. In many cases, pickpockets are young boys and girls who are harder to arrest or prosecute. In many cases, the police cannot do much, which further incentivizes pickpockets.
Where You Are Most Likely to Be Pickpocketed in Paris
Pickpockets in Paris can be found on busy streets and crowded areas like the public transport system, tourist attractions, festivals, concerts, nightclubs, bars, etc.
However, let’s take a little more in-depth look.
On the Public Transport System
Pickpocketing in the metro system in Paris is fairly common. People are advised to exercise extra caution, especially on lines 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 12, which are often used by tourists and the RER train from Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) to and from Paris.
In addition some stations are known to be a little more sketchy at night or generally have a higher amounts of theft. Such stations are the Châtelet Les Halles, Gare d’Auber, Barbès-Rochechouart, Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord, Anvers, République, Pigalle, La Défense, La Chapelle, Stalingrad, Saint-Michel, and Montparnasse-Bienvenüe.
There was a notable rise in the number of thefts in the metro in 2019. Between January and October of 2019, a total of 7,485 thefts were reported, out of which 5,093 were non-violent thefts such as pickpocketing. For the same period in 2018, the number of thefts was 4,721, of which the pickpocketing cases reported were just 2,920.
Interestingly enough, the increase in thefts and pickpocketing on the metro are partly attributed to the recent decrease in the police officers patrolling the public transport system in Paris.
Pickpockets will often box the victim to prevent any movement. And while the victim will be unable to move much, somebody will be picking their pockets.
Sometimes one person may try to block the victim’s way or even pretend to fall on the ground and request assistance. In the meantime, another criminal will try to steal the victim’s personal effects.
Often thieves will snatch the victim’s bag, purse, or backpack right as the train doors are closing or at turnstiles. For example, some pickpockets will try to press against their victims at turnstiles, steal whatever they can, and just run the opposite way.
In some instances, one person may block the train doors from closing while one of their accomplices will grab the victim’s bag and get off the metro car as the doors are closing behind them. Because of this, it is not recommended to stay near the train doors.
Be particularly mindful of groups of young boys or girls that may be rushing to board the metro at the last second. Nonetheless, a group of pickpockets may already be on the train, as well.
Pickpockets will usually try to hide what they are doing in some way. They can conceal their actions with a well-placed jacket over their arms, a scarf that just happens to be covering your bag or pockets, or a big shopping bag that will prevent passersby from noticing their stealing hands.
On the Streets
The neighborhoods in Paris are called arrondissements, and Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements. Although Paris, in general, is considered safe, certain areas and spots can be sketchy.
Pickpockets can often be found around tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Notre Dame, Sacré-Cœur, Louvre, Centre Pompidou, around the river Seine, and other museums, monuments, and tourist hotspots.
Remember that pickpockets and snatchers usually work in teams. One person may be creating the distraction while their accomplice will try to steal whatever they can.
Be on your guard if somebody bumps into you or presses against you. Do not assume it is by accident. When they do, that is also the moment when they usually try to fish your valuables out of your pockets, and everything happens very quickly.
If somebody approaches you and tries to start a conversation, asks for money or cigarettes, tries to sell you something, or asks for some kind of help, do not let your guard down, you do not have to talk to them or even make eye contact. If you feel something is off, it is okay to keep your distance, say “no” and walk away.
Be careful around ATMs as well. Pickpockets may try to approach you while you are using the ATM and see if they can pick your pockets, steal your card, cash, or simply try to find out what your card’s PIN is. Do not talk with anyone while withdrawing money, stay alert, and do not get distracted. Try to hide your hand while entering the PIN.
At Public Venues
Pickpockets will often rely on the victim being distracted and not looking after their belongings.
Do not let your guard down.
Keep an eye on the area around you and be particularly careful if somebody tries to get too close in your personal space. This can be in the metro or on busy streets, but also clubs, coffee shops, bars, or shopping malls. There have been cases of people who lost their belongings while waiting at hotel receptions and eating inside restaurants. Thieves often target drunk people leaving nightclubs and bars.
Do not leave your bag or purse unzipped on the floor next to you or under the table if you are at a restaurant, a coffee shop, or even at the train station. Avoid setting your bag down anywhere as a pickpocket or a snatcher can try to steal it. (The same applies to phones and cameras.)
Also, do not leave your coat, jacket, or bag hanging from the back of your chair. You will not be able to spot if a pickpocket gets close and tries to steal anything from it.
How to Carry Valuables in Paris
According to the US Embassy in France, the best way to carry money in Paris is by keeping small amounts of money on yourself (about €40 to €50).
It is best to keep the cash in your front pockets, inside a zipped or buttoned inner pocket of jackets or inner compartments of backpacks and purses. Extra money, passports, and bank cards can be kept in a money belt.
Take only what you need and follow the rule of thumb that says you should carry only what you can afford to lose.
It is best to carry little money on yourself, enough to last you a few days. That way, even if it gets stolen, it is not a huge loss. Bank cards, passports, and higher amounts of cash should be left in a secure place such as a hotel safe.
It is not recommended to bring your wallet with you. Especially if it is particularly bulky, as such wallets can be easy to steal even from the inner pocket of jackets. If necessary, a very slim wallet or a business card holder can be used instead. Placing a rubber band around the wallet or phone is also a good trick to make it more difficult for a pickpocket to get them out of your pocket without you noticing.
Expensive accessories and jewelry like necklaces, watches, bracelets can be snatched in an instant by an experienced thief, so it is best to leave them at home.
In Paris, most tourists prefer to carry their Driver’s License for collateral for audio guides, car rental, and identification. Often a driver’s license is easier to replace if stolen than a passport.
If you carry expensive cameras or phones, exercise extra caution when using them out in public—especially at the metro. Snatchers can simply run past you, grab your phone and disappear in the crowd. It is not recommended to leave them somewhere or let go of them either.
What to Wear in Paris
Try not to stand out as an obvious tourist. Wearing casual, relaxed clothes can be enough to blend in. If unsure, check what the locals are wearing.
It is not recommended to flaunt wealth.
It is okay to wear a backpack in Paris. However, it is recommended to be careful when on the metro and in other busy areas. When using the public transport system in Paris, consider carrying the backpack in front of you, adding an extra lock to the outer pockets for security, and not keeping any valuables in it.
If you set your backpack down on the floor, keep your hands on it.
Check out the video below to see how sneaky pickpockets can be in stealing from somebody’s backpack.
Women are advised to carry a cross-body bag. These are harder to snatch. The bag should be kept in front of the body or to the side with an arm over it. It is recommended to keep your cash, IDs, passport, and bank cards in an inner zipped pocket of your bag or purse.
Men should not carry anything in their back pockets. Front pockets are generally safer but not completely pickpocket-proof. Ideally, cash, wallets, phones should be kept in an inner zipped or buttoned jacket pocket.
Belt bags are not the best choice to wear when visiting Paris. They can make you stand out as a tourist and are also easy to steal from.
For example, a pickpocket can jostle against you and try to prevent you from leaving the train car as they push you back inside. While doing so, they will also pick your belt bag.
If you have to keep more money or important documents on yourself, use a money belt instead. Money belts are easier to conceal and significantly harder to pick.
Should You Be Concerned About Pickpockets in Paris?
Do not get paranoid about your visit to Paris. Paris is a normal city, but it is also a large city. Being alert, mindful of your surroundings, careful about how you handle belongings, and using some common sense is usually enough to stop pickpockets.
It is recommended to make a list and plan out where you will go. That way, you will be more prepared and not look lost. Walk with purpose and try to look confident.
However, while pickpockets are a problem in Paris, visitors should be aware of some common scams as well.
For example, the area around the Sacré Cœur is a well-known spot for people who try to tie a wristband around people’s arms (what is commonly referred to as a “free friendship bracelet.”). However, they will often ask for money later. Some of these people can also be pickpockets. If you encounter them, keep walking and do not talk to them.
There are also some variations of this scam, like somebody offering you a free flower only to ask for money for it later. Things in Paris are rarely free, so be careful and walk away.
Another popular scam is the dropped ring/wallet scam. Check out this interesting video below to see what that is like.
Another common scam has to do with the people carrying clipboards who will approach you, asking if you speak English, to sign their petition, or take a survey. It is best to just not talk to them and continue walking. They will often ask for money or even try to pickpocket you while you are distracted. I recommend checking out this video below.
What to Do if You Are Pickpocketed in Paris
If you are a victim of pickpocketing in France, report the crime to the nearest police station (also known as commissariat). There is a police station in each arrondissement, and a detailed list can be found on the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau website.
When at the police station, you have to fill out a police report. And although it is usually unlikely for the police to recover your belongings, this can help catch the criminals in certain instances. Remember to request a copy of the police report that will be used later as evidence. Depending on what you have lost, contact your embassy, airline, bank, phone provider, or insurance company.
A detailed list of the embassies and consulates in France can be found on the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs website. However, all countries are listed in French.
Paris is no different from any other big city when it comes to pickpockets.
There are plenty of dark corners and late nights for thieves to use, so don’t fall for the idea that Paris is only romantic alleyways and warm, sunny afternoons—it’s also a city that never sleeps!
Long story short: Yes, there are pickpockets in Paris.
But! That doesn’t mean you need to avoid visiting this beautiful city on your next vacation. It just means you should be cautious when you’re there—don’t take along anything valuable that you wouldn’t want to be stolen, and keep the rest of your valuables stowed away in a safe place at your hotel or apartment rental.
And if you do happen to be the victim of theft, don’t worry (it’s not the end of the world!)—the French police are very helpful and will work with you to investigate the crime and find your missing belongings.
Until next time,
Happy traveling, and bon voyage!