In general, Paris is a safe city. It is only some of the outer suburbs of the metropolitan area (the banlieues) such as Clichy-sous-Bois and Bondy which one would consider 'rough' by western standards. The most prevalent crime by far is petty theft. Pickpockets and scams, of which there are many, are the most common crime. While not common, purse snatching and muggings do happen. Violent crime is rare.
The police can be reached by phone by dialing 17. Not all police officers speak English, but those found around touristy areas almost always will. They are usually friendly and perfectly approachable should you have to.
The metro is also a popular place for pickpockets. Hold things tightly and be aware of your surroundings. While trains are usually crowded, if someone is insisting and hovers over you, they are probably going through your pockets. It is important to know that a majority of these belong to a gang. These gangs usually use young children as young as seven, with groups of them going around the metro stations pickpocketing tourists and locals alike. If there is a group of three or more suspicious looking people, be careful of your belongings.
Common tactics are two of them blocking you as you try to board the subway, with two behind you quickly going through your bag. Seconds before the doors close, the two jump off, leaving you on the metro without even realizing what has happened. Take note of what locals do. If someone warns you to be careful, there are probably some suspicious types hoping to steal from you. Also be aware that phone-snatching is the most reported crime, and avoid using your cellphone on metro platforms and in the metro itself.
Pickpockets are active on the rail link (RER B) from Charles de Gaulle airport to downtown Paris, which passes through the poor suburbs of Seine-Saint Denis. Try to take the trains which are nonstop between the airport and Paris proper (Gare du Nord) - EKLI/EKIL from Paris to CDG and KRIN/KROL from CDG to Paris. These are faster and are less crowded than the alternative.
There have also been problems with thieves physically fighting people in order to steal their belongings. The most common targets are those with suitcases and backpacks, i.e. tourists. Thieves usually coin their acts with the closing of the doors. Newer trains have cameras everywhere, and thieves are much less likely to use them. Otherwise, stow luggage on the racks above the seat and hold on to your bags so no one can grab them and then run out. You are much less likely of being a victim if the train is crowded with locals headed to work, usually at rush hour.
The train conductors are widely aware of these crimes and will usually wait a few seconds to leave the station after the doors have closed, just in case thieves have quickly jumped off with belongings. There are also emergency cords that one can pull if willing to chase after the attackers. People will usually be helpful and gladly call the police if you do not have a cell phone.
Pickpockets are most likely to be found working at crowded tourists hotspots, so keep your wallet and phone in your front pockets and hold your backpack tightly when in a crowd.
A common place for phone/camera/wallet snatching is in tourist friendly dining areas scattered all over Paris where exposed outdoor tables are commonly right on busy sidewalks. Common practice by many western tourists is to leave an aforementioned item of value on the table (most commonly a smartphone) in front of them. Some of the criminals, working in groups of three to five people, approach your table and shove what appears to be a survey directly under your nose thus blocking your view of your valuable. While the gang members are yelling in a foreign language another one will slip a hand below your view and take your item of value from the table. This occurs very quickly (less than five seconds) and the perpetrators disappear around the corner just as quick as they arrived.
At Sacré Coeur, there are many men who will try to tie strings on your finger. Not only will they demand an obscene fee for the cheap trinkets, usually over 15 euros, they will also try to pickpocket you or threaten you with force if you do not give them money. They are usually only at the base of the monument and can be avoided by taking the Funicular of Montmartre. Otherwise, you can quickly walk past them and ignore them, though they will willingly grab peoples arms. Yelling at them may cause unwanted attention and cause them to back off, but be careful. Sacré Coeur appears to be the only area where they congregate.
Besides them, you will notice many people walking around with cheap trinkets at touristic areas, especially the Trocadero, Eiffel Tower, and Louvre Museum. They are generally not rude but bear in mind that buying things from them is illegal and hurts small businesses. This of course causes them to bolt at the sight of the police, and you may end up in the middle of a stampede!
Be extremely careful around Barbes Rochechouart and the bars near Moulin Rouge. A very common trick is played here which might cost you up to 500 euros. The agents standing outside will force you to enter a bar and just have a look for 5 minutes. The moment you order a drink (about 5 euros), a girl will approach you and start talking generally, and leave in 10–15 minutes. After a harmless conversation with the girls when you request for a bill, you will encounter a charge of say 200-500 euros as 'service fees' for the services rendered by the girl! In case you resist to pay, the bouncers will start intimidating you try to extract money from your wallet. In such cases, threaten them that you are calling the cops (flics) and informing the local embassy. Try to buy some time and start creating a ruckus. However, do not try to start a fight with the bouncers.
One scam involves a "helpful" local buying a ticket for you. Normally, tourists buy 1-day, 3-day or longer Paris Visite passes. They would tell you that your single trip ticket has expired and bring you to the ticketing machine to purchase day passes. Then they would select the 3 day pass for adults (even though you may be a student) and deliberately show you the price on the screen. Everything else is in French so you would not understand a thing. They would proceed to purchase with a credit card and while entering the PIN code, get you to turn your back on them. They then sneakily change the ticket to a single trip ticket and ask for payment for a 3-day ticket from you. Unsuspecting tourists would pay the full sum thinking it is a 1-day or 3-day pass when it is only a useless ticket. Buy the tickets yourself to avoid situations like these, as machines are available in English and other languages. If you feel threatened, call the police and don't physically handle the ticket if they forcibly purchase without your agreement.
Another common scam is found along the banks of the Seine river and involves a ring. This involves thieves "finding" a ring which they give to you. They then ask you if you own it. When you say no, they insist you keep it, saying it goes against their religion or they cannot wear rings. A few moments later, they ask you for money to buy something to eat, eventually following you and becoming more annoying. You can either yell at them or steer them towards an area where there are likely to be police present, at which point they will quickly run away, leaving you with a little souvenir!
The most common scam (besides pickpocketing) that has taken over Paris by storm since June 2011 involves women coming up to tourists with pledge sheets. They pretend to be deaf people collecting money for one charity or another. Once you are distracted with the petition, an accomplice pickpockets you and takes your belongings. In addition, once you sign, they point to a thing that reads "minimum ten euro donation." While they may at first insist on this, shaking your head and walking away will usually make them pester someone else. Otherwise, Simply waving them off and a loud no should make them give up. If they are in a large group, as is common, BE CAREFUL OF YOUR BELONGINGS!!! This is a ploy to pickpocket you as you are surrounded by them. At this point, yelling for the police will make them disperse quickly. This is most commonly found around major tourists sites, but has also been a problem at Gare du Nord, though this has gotten much better.
NEVER bet money on a 3 card game as you will always lose. This trick is played by con artists on some of the bridges on River Seine near the Eiffel Tower.
It is a good idea to steer clear of the suburb of Seine Saint-Denis, as this suburb is known for its gangs and poverty, though there is of little interest to a tourists anyway. Avoid walking alone at night in the eighteenth and nineteenth arrondissement as well, as these can be a little shady at night. There is a large problem with youths from the depressed suburbs causing trouble with the police. If locals are moving away, it is most likely from a confrontation. While these groups rarely target people besides the police, be careful. Walk away from a situation that could lead to fights or worse.
In general, remember to be aware of pickpocket as they act by trying to distract you. Avoid showing off expensive phones or a lot of money in the public transportation or in open areas. Put your things in a money belt or your front pockets, but never in the back pockets. Besides scammers and thieves, Paris is a perfectly safe city, and most travelers will not run into any trouble.
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