Last week I tried to highlight the need for visitors and residents alike to be aware of the growing level of crime and violence in Paris in the past few years. So now that you’re all paranoid, you’re probably thinking, “Great, now our day’s been ruined!” But seriously, some precautions and hints on how to be safe can help cut down on the chances of you or your family hanging out in the Prefecture de Police during your stay.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down First of all, ignore people who say that certain areas are safer than others. This could give you a false sense of security. You may instinctually cling to your purse if you walk past Les Halles or Barbès at night, but you’re more likely to get pickpocketed on the Champs Elysées, and it’s much darker on those quiet streets in the 16th. Always be aware, and never have all of your important documents and cash together in one spot on your body or purse. One refreshingly amusing article written on Parisian pickpocketing comes from an Illinois web site called The Zephyr. Excuse Me, Is That Your Hand in My Pocket?by Terry Hogan (in the Backtracking Archives) reminds all of us keep a closer eye on our possessions, and provides good tips, like the most convenient place to get your wallet stolen (The Louvre, bless their multilingual souls).
Friendly Chit-Chat? Second, and I stress this especially if you’re a female, don’t feel obliged to talk to strangers in the streets, in bars, or on public transportation. If they really do simply want to know the time, or directions, they can ask someone else. It’s easier for Parisians to spot a foreigner than you may think, and people walking around on their own are easier to fool. If you’re worried about being rude, try to decline conversation politely, but be firm if they insist. And get yourself away from them pronto.
Comfort of the Crowd Third, don’t count too heavily on other people to help you. Parisians are a lot like New Yorkers, they can’t be bothered. So if you’re in a crowded bar, a crowded street, or a crowded Metro car, don’t let your guard down.
Reporting an Incident Last of all, if anything does happen to you, no matter how difficult it may be, report the crime to the police, or at least the American Consulate. If you don’t speak French and need medical attention dial 112, or if you need someone to give you advice you can call the SOS Help! Crisis Line, 01 46 21 46 46, daily 3pm-11pm.
Reporting crimes committed will not only keep the official crime rate truthful, it will also help police recognize the needs of non-French victims.
More Info For more information, the US Department of State provides a long list of cautions for American citizens traveling, with a comprehensive outline of how to prepare for a safe trip abroad.
If anyone has any comments or question, or would like to add any resources or tips to this list, please don’t hesitate to start a discussion or contact me by e-mail.
See the most up-to-date safety information here.
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’m publishing them all here, one by one, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris”