In most of the world, crime has decreased over the years. Throughout the US, for example, violent crime has fallen by 32 per cent since 1990 (and 64 per cent in the largest cities). But while violent crimes are down, you must guard against lesser (but still traumatising) crimes such as robbery. Among the cities adored by tourists, some are known for their distinctive crime scenes, among them:
The Gangs: Among US cities, the Capital ranks 21st in violent crime (1178 per 100,000 people during 2012, compared to, say, 2123 in Detroit). Its robbery incidents, however, are among the nation’s worst, especially in the south-east of the city. For the record, San Francisco ranks 80th, and New York City is 96th.
Of course, as you would have read in Traveller, those cities are all worth visiting. When you are there (or anywhere else), it is worth taking a few precautions.
- Dress like a local, not like a tourist.
- Take out travel insurance. You probably won’t use it, but take it anyway.
- A money belt might be a nuisance, but it is the safest place for your valuables. Don’t pull out your wallet in public. If you must take a handbag, hold it close.
- Be especially careful on crowded trains, buses and subways.
- Make sure you take down your phone’s IMEI number (as printed on the original packaging) and your computer’s serial number. Police might be ineffectual, but it should still be reported.
- In some countries (eg. France, the Czech Republic), visitors are required to carry their passport at all times. In such places, a photocopy of the passport, kept in your hotel, will make it easier to replace.
HO CHI MINH CITY
The Motorised Bag-snatch: Two years ago, a colleague – travelling by motor-scooter on these scooter-heavy roads – had her purse snatched by a rider next to her, who immediately sped away. The next morning, our guide was calmly confident that he could retrieve her bag. He phoned the nearest police, and yes, it was at the station, complete with smartphone. “They just want the cash,” he said. “They want nothing that can track them. Bags always end up at the station.”
The Sneak Attack: In Europe, it is often a more sophisticated operation, in which phones and laptops are flown abroad, erased and re-sold overnight. A day after my own bag was taken from the floor of a cheap restaurant, a woman told me that her handbag was once stolen from a chair at the Ritz – so nowhere is completely safe. However, the hot spots include Stratford (where the Olympic Village area remains busy) and the huge Westfield mall at Shepherd’s Bush.