The general perception is that the U.S. is an extremely violent place in comparison to Europe. And while the murder rate in the U.S. — thanks almost exclusively to the drug trade in inner cities — is much higher — the somewhat surprising truth is that overall crime rates have been falling in the U.S. since the 1970s while the rates have been climbing in Western Europe. In fact, when you do an apples to apples comparison — the U.S. with its 300+ million population and the populations of a near equivalent number in Western Europe (e.g., UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc.) — there has been a real “reversal of misfortune,” as some experts call it, with total crime growing in Europe while falling in the U.S.
The big crime in Paris is theft. Pickpockets abound and we’ve had our encounters during our stay. There are signs at all the major tourist attractions warning you about pickpockets. We ran into an American couple at the Musee Rodin who was part of a tour group and they had been the victims of pickpockets. Our friend, Eugene Miller, was accosted by a couple of pickpockets on the Metro, but he was prepared (thanks to my husband) and had all his money tucked safely away in a money belt. The rouse went something like this: two young girls (looked like they were 13 or 14) get on the train and ask for directions, in French, because they’re lost. They ask if the Charles de Gaulle -Etoile metro station is for the Charles de Gaulle airport. They had Eugene’s jacket unzipped in about two seconds flat. He was on to their scam almost immediately and shooed them away. They hopped off at the next stop.
I was approached today with another popular scam. John and I braved the snow and went to the Jardin des Tuileries to snap photos of the freak snow storm’s impact on the City of Light. This area is usually teeming with tourists and locals alike, but was virtually vacant today.
I was approached by a young girl who held out a gold wedding band to me to ask if I had dropped it. Before I could respond, my Knight in Shining Armor swooped in and pulled me away. The girl simply turned and went on her way looking for another unsuspecting tourist. As we were crossing the Pont Royal to the Left Bank to grab some lunch, we watched another female pickpocket try the same “Look what if found!” scam on a gentleman behind us. We warned him that it was a scam and he — and the pickpocket — just went their separate ways.
The third approach I’ve encountered is this: a young man or woman will approach you and ask you to sign a petition. I always wave them away and go on my way — to avoid having one of their cohorts try to grab my purse ( I wear a very small one strapped criss-cross over my shoulder and chest) and run with it.
The pickpockets are often young, underage girls because they are hard to catch and prosecute. Parisians seem to simply ignore them while we tourists have to be on guard whenever approached by any one under age 21!
I’m sure there’s a Fagin working in the background somewhere…