As the #1 tourist destination in the world, Paris does have it’s share of petty crime and an aware visitor is the smartest kind of tourist. Paris is statistically one of the safest major metropolitan areas in Europe. Violent crime rates are fairly low in Paris. Crime directed against tourists is the kind that can ruin a vacation: stolen wallets, stolen baggage, credit card fraud. There’s a sucker born every minute and ten thousand new suckers jetting into Paris every day, so the thieves and pickpockets don’t need to change their methods much; they just practice them until they’ve got it perfect. If they successfully rob you, it will be because their method was new to you, but not to them. Unlike American cities, where the rich tend to flee to the suburbs, the poor and the immigrants are relegated to the Paris neighborhoods hit hardest by crime which are those on the outskirts of the city so avoid travelling to the Northern Paris suburbs of Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers, Saint-Ouen, etc. after dark. Never leave your bags or valuables unattended in the metro, bus or other public areas. Not only do you risk theft but unattended bags are sometimes considered a security threat.
Here are some common tips for the savvy traveler:
Driving in Paris is not advisable and can be both dangerous and aggravating. Parking spaces are limited, traffic is dense, and erratic driving is common. If you must drive, make sure you have up-to-date international insurance. Pedestrians should be especially careful while crossing streets and busy intersections. Drivers can be very aggressive in Paris and traffic laws are frequently broken. Even when the light is green, take extra caution while crossing the street. Also watch out for cars in certain areas that seem pedestrian-only (and perhaps are, in theory).
Cellular Phones are often whisked off café tables or even snatched while people hold them up to their ears. It’s recommended for tourists to keep their phones tucked away when you aren’t using them and most importantly be aware of your surroundings.
When traveling by taxi, make sure to verify the minimum price of the taxi ride before getting in the taxi. It is not uncommon for Paris taxi drivers to overcharge unsuspecting tourists, so be sure to watch the meter, and ask questions if you must. Also, giving the driver a suggested route ahead of time with the aid of a map is a good idea. the train
Try to go shopping with a Parisian friend and let them do the talking for you, while you keep a low profile. As a foreigner you will stick out like a sore thumb anyway and there is little you can do about that, but use discretion and try to make it less obvious, especially when you are alone and unsure of your directions.
Try not to make a big show of getting a street-map out, or going through all your pockets looking for this roll of film or that bus ticket. It only serves to draw attention to you on the street and to better indicate to the pick-pocket .which pocket your wallet is in.
Please be aware of the ‘mess on the back’ trick. Someone draws your attention to a mark on the back of your jacket (usually ketchup or mayonnaise squirted on, or cold water squirted on the back of your shirt in hot weather) and offers you a tissue to wipe it off. While he is helping, he is also helping himself to your wallet. (This happened to me, but I was ready for it and asked him to do the wiping, which he declined! I walked off, but he was most insistent that I really did have something on my back, and followed me to ‘assist’ me further. I still ignored him, and when I got home and checked, sure enough there was absolutely nothing there, except his damp palm print on my shirt which had remained in the intense humidity!)
Fortunately, these are not common occurences in Paris but it’s best to be prepared and aware of all the situations when traveling to Paris.
Paris is not recognized as a heavy crime destination as other prime destinations are. But June is the prime month for visiting Paris and visitors to Paris need to be aware of the safety pitfalls and the tactics of petty criminals.