A couple of days ago, Ed’s brother was mugged waiting for the train to Versailles.
He was standing on the platform when a group of young men surrounded him, ripped his wallet out of his pocket, then pushed him onto the train and took off running.
Apparently that’s the drill. You’re at highest risk for a mugging when the train or Metro has just pulled into the station:
Thieves dig the Métro and RER. Be on guard. If your pocket is picked as you pass through a turnstile, you end up stuck on the wrong side (after the turnstile bar has closed behind you) while the thief gets away. Stand away from Métro doors to avoid being a target for a theft-and-run just before the doors close. Any jostling or commotion — especially when boarding or leaving trains — is likely the sign of a thief or a team of thieves in action. Make any fare inspector show proof of identity (ask locals for help if you’re not certain). Keep your bag close, and never show anyone your wallet.
Learning Le Métro: Basic Tips for Paris’ Underground Arteries
In my brother-in-law’s case, the gang managed to make a €1500 purchase on his Visa card almost instantaneously. They were buying stuff while he was on the phone reciting his mother’s maiden name to a succession of customer service reps and saying things like “You know, right, that they’re making charges now?”
When the card was finally canceled, he decided to report the crime to the local police (les flics !), mostly because his daughters wanted him to.
So they walked to the police station.
The precinct building, they discovered, was surrounded by walls, barbed wire, and locked gates. There was no way in. So they stood outside waving their arms and calling to anyone who happened to come within earshot until someone unlocked one of the gates and let them in.
Inside they found 7 or 8 fantastically good looking male police officers and one female secretary, all of whom seemed to be flirting. The men were so handsome, my brother-in-law said, that it felt like they’d walked onto the set of a reality TV show.
The police were willing to take his report, they said, but first they wanted to make sure it was a report, not a complaint. A report for insurance purposes.
We take reports, not complaints: that sounds like a case of juking the stats to me, but what do I know?
Filling out the report consumed the next two hours.
The report-not-complaint behind them, my brother-in-law and his daughters tried to exit the station … and couldn’t get out. The door wouldn’t open.
Finally they called for help (au secours !).
One of the handsome cops came over and told them the door does open, but you have to kick it first, which he then demonstrated. Et voilá.
Everyone I know has been referring to this event as a pickpocketing.
I was pickpocketed on my honeymoon : on a bus, on Michigan Avenue, in Chicago. I didn’t know about it till later, when I went to fish my billfold out of my purse and it wasn’t there.
That is a pickpocketing.1
When 5 guys surround you, take your wallet by force, and push you onto a train: that is a mugging.
It’s a mugging, and because it’s a mugging Paris police should be taking complaints, not reports …. and they should be doing something about crime on the Metro and RER so they won’t have so many reports to fill out in the first place.
Something like patrolling the stations, for starters.
After my brother-in-law was mugged, his wife reported that their friend R. had been mugged twice (once here in Paris, once in D.C.), and their friend L. had also been mugged, also in Paris.
R. now wears a wallet chain.
I don’t get that at all.
An American man needs to wear a wallet chain to ride the Metro in Paris ?
While you’ve got a police station filled with handsome young men filling out reports so people can collect insurance to cover the loss ?
I’m missing the logic.
1. The actual story is slightly embarrassing. I didn’t notice the pickpocketing, but I did notice the young woman standing beside me, who was glaring at the guy picking my pocket. She looked absolutely furious. I kept thinking, ‘What’s she so mad about? Does she know this guy? Are they fighting?” So I managed to notice what she was doing, but not what he was doing. Should have been the other way around. ↩