Monday, February 20, 2006

Pickpockets Beware!

Venice is a great place to work--if you're a pickpocketer. It's the perfect environment: Crowded vaporetti. Crowded calles. Tourists overcome by the splendor of Venice--and not paying attention to the hand slipping into a purse, pocket, or backpack.

But now, according to an article in Slate, Venetians are fighting back. "A civilian antipickpocket patrol called Cittadini Non Distratti, or Undistracted Citizens. Members, who call themselves 'Citizens,' walk around Venice looking for pickpockets."

The "Citizens" or "Guardian Angels of Tourists" pay a small fee for membership in Cittadini Non Distratti and won't let the papers photograph them, so the pickpocketers don't recognize them. (The pickpocketers say they do recognize them.) Is it working? The region's chief justice thinks it is.

6 comments:

Karan said...

When I was in Venice last October I was told by our host that Venice is seriously cracking down on pickpockets by rewarding citizens for drawing attention to the crime when they spot it happening. I had no problems at all on the vaparettos or anywhere else in Venice. I was also warned not to buy any bags from the "Africans" because I would get fined for the effort.

SharonZ said...

Karan,
If you go to the Archives and look in my July 2005 posts--I have a posting about police cracking down on the bag vendors. The law says that people buying the phony bags are also guilty and the fines are high.

RaleighRob said...

I don't recall much warning in Venice about pickpockets (other than generically in our Italy guidebook). I do recall the hotel staff warning about the people selling bags and other faux merchandise. And to avoid the beggars.

However in Rome, when we went down into their subway, at one point a woman just ran up to us and was warning me to hold my backpack to my front to avoid things getting stolen from it. She was walking around all over the station telling people similar warnings. I thanked her, but at the time thought it was real odd for just a plain citizen to be going everywhere warning people like that.
Now I see why.

SharonZ said...

raleighrob,
I've never seen any citizens warning about pickpockets (wait, yes I did but it was in Paris). Anyway, I think the tight spaces in Venice are fertile grounds for pickpocteters. I was on a very crowded vaporetto once and had someone try to get into my purse, but I had a firm hand on the zipper. I crunched the guy in the stomach with an elbow and stopped things.
Sharon

verniciousknids said...

"Undistracted Citizens" is such a great name! I personally have never (fortunately) been the victim of pickpocketing - but I am vigilant about my stuff when travelling.

I seriously hope I haven't jinxed myself by posting the above :p

David said...

Just arrive back to the US from Venice. We arrive Venice by train from Rome and within 15 minutes of exiting our train, we are robbed of our passports. We lost a whole day in Milan at the US Embassy but we recovered. Venice is beautiful and we will return. All countries have crime problems and due to the economy, its worse. I love Venice and will return.