While Venice Italy is one of jewels of Italy, it does seem to have a reputation for child pickpockets. While many first time tourists pick Venice as one of their places to visit, a little time should be spent on understanding how child pickpockets operate so one can learn how to avoid them.
While this article just focuses on child pickpockets issues in Venice, Italy, make sure you check out the article on general pickpocket tips in Italy, as well as other cities which pickpockets that are also discussed, including:
Every year, thousands of senior citizens fall prey to pickpockets and thieves whose quick and clever tactics would make the Artful Dodger blush. What may take thieves a moment to “lift” from your pockets (passports, credit cards, and airline tickets) may take weeks to replace. It is difficult to recognize these changeling thieves sometimes the well-dressed businessman standing next to you who just dropped some coins, at other times the “friendly” group of young children with newspapers approaching you in a city subway. A thief may be hard to recognize, but their time tested tactics are not. When traveling or in your home area you can prevent the majority of common thefts by arming themselves with the knowledge of typical scams, following some basic travel safety tips.
Schooling for thieves starts very early. A traveler was seated on a crowded bus in Rome on her way to the Vatican. She glanced down at her lap to find a tiny little hand reaching into her now unzipped fanny pack. The child could not have been more than 6 years old. Groups of children have been known to gang up on unsuspecting travelers as well. One common scenario is the newspaper trick. A group of children approach the unsuspecting tourist and ask for money or try to sell you knick knacks as they jab at you with newspapers or cardboard. The papers effectively block your view of little hands fast at work, opening pockets, slashing belts, and cleaning out your travel funds. If you do catch on, usually the shock of being robbed by children delays your reaction a moment more, making for a successful robbery.
One of the big issues in Venice in the last two months has been the appearance of Romanian child pickpockets – the sort you’ll have seen in Rome and other Italian cities if you have travelled around Italy in recent years. Under 14 years of age, these children cannot be held accountable for their crimes by local law. They’re picked up by police, taken to child refuges then they abscond in the morning. Some of the children are stopped by carabinieri (local police), fed-up local vigilantes and shopkeepers on a daily basis, but the rewards are great and they keep on robbing.
Tourists should always be careful in crowded places and should keep bags firmly fastened and under their control at all times. Be streetwise – Venice is a very safe town but pickpocketing is one thing you should look out for. Favorite places for the robbers include busy lanes and bridges, the bus terminus at Piazzale Roma, the St. Mark’s area and rush-hour water buses. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security if the only people near you are ten-year-olds or heavily-pregnant girls; these are classic examples of the pickpockets sent out by Fagin-like operators. In the last week the newspaper has reported children as young as 5 being employed in crime. Be very aware of people falling in behind you in a queue, especially if you are being jostled. Shout loudly and attract attention if someone attempts to rob you.
Since writing this it nearly happened to me! On Sunday in Dorsoduro I was crossing a bridge when I became aware of a young girl moving in close behind me, on the side where I carried my shoulder bag. Although I didn’t see her or her companion, a slightly older boy, actually rob anyone, it was clear that this was their game. They would choose a position on a bridge, watch as tourists walked by, then the girl would begin to follow the tourists down alleys as the boy kept a look out. When they realized I was watching them they moved off. I would guess that she was about 11 years old, and the boy was perhaps 13. Stay alert!
To see a video of how adults use children to steal purses from unsuspecting women, read this article and watch the video footage that shows a woman using a young five year old child to steal a purse in a pizza parlor. The theft may have been avoided if the woman might have used a security purse with an anti-snatch strap which would have kept the purse secured to a secure fixture in the restaurant, such as a table chair. Here is a link to a variety of security purses security purses.