Are You an Easy Target?
You might want to add that concern to your mental checklist while strolling down Nevsky Prospect. The possibility that your wallet might not be there when you reach down to check is an unpleasant reality. Pickpockets can be found all over the world and in every city, preying on culture shocked tourists and street wise natives alike.
Pickpocketing has been around since there were pockets to pick. In Russia, the popular slang for a pickpocket is карманник (Kahr-mann-ik) and while gypsies might be popular scapegoats for petty theft, Russia has had a long standing tradition of criminal culture. Vori v zakone or thieves in law operate in their own culture called воровской мир or thieves world, rich in customs and traditions and even its own language. These traditions have been popularized throughout Russia in song and film with modern day bards like Aleksander Rozenbaum writing songs glorifying the honorable thieves and their codes. So while you might enjoy the music, keep your eyes on your wallet.
While this revelation could be very unsettling, there are several things you can do to make yourself not worth the trouble. The truth is that most people make themselves easy victims for pickpockets.
The blogging site EnglishRussia.com posted some very interesting pictures of pickpockets in action on Nevsky Prospect. Here is what you can do to avoid becoming a victim when traveling abroad.
Tips to keep you and your wallet safe.
- Keep your head on a swivel. Vigilance is the number one deterrent in keeping potential pickpockets at bay. If you are aware of your surroundings, chances are you’re just not going to be worth the trouble.
- Carry only what you need for the day and leave everything else in the room or hotel safe. It’s always better to lose a little bit then everything at once.
- Don’t broadcast to everyone where you keep your wallet. People subconsciously check the pockets where they keep their money. That also lets others know where the wallet is at.
- Keep your valuables on you as much as you can. Preferably towards the front of your person where you have a better chance of catching a wandering hand then if your purse is hanging off your shoulder.
- Store money, credit cards, passports in a money belt or around you’re neck. It might look tacky but it’s a surefire way to make sure those things stay with you. Carry a small decoy wallet with some spare change and expired cards to distract the thieves from where the real valuables are located.
- If you must keep your wallet in your pocket be sure that you can secure that pocket by buttoning it up or snapping it shut. An open pocket is as good as an invitation to whatever is inside.
- If you are carrying valuables in your backpack the same rule applies. Zip it shut! Better yet, place the valuables on the bottom so if someone does gain access to it, they at least have to rummage around to get to the goodies.
- When sitting down at a restaurant, place the strap of your bag/purse around the chair leg to prevent easy lift off. Never hang it on the back of the chair.
- In crowded places such as airports or markets, keep physical contact with your luggage. Having your hands on your stuff prevents others from putting their hands on it.
- Finally, don’t be an easy target. Try to fit in with the locals as much as you can to avoid standing out as an overflowing fountain of cash carrying tourist. Such people are marked as being easy targets because of their naivety and carelessness.
Pickpockets in Baia Mare, Romania – youtube link
With the rise in popularity in backpacking across foreign lands, the hustlers and pickpockets have no end of hapless travelers on which to prey. Remember, there are many wonderful things to see when traveling but don’t let the sights overwhelm your sense of safety. It’s always easier to take a few precautions than to deal with the loss of a passport or money when overseas.
That said, protect your treasures and happy trails!
Check out more pictures of pickpockets in Nevsky prospect here