Crime doesn’t take vacations.
That’s why U.S. Army Europe crime prevention experts say you can never be too careful, prepared or aware.
Members of the U.S. forces community in Europe should be particularly cautious when they travel, the experts say.
“It’s important to remember that tourists make tempting targets for thieves,” said Lt. Col. Shawn J. Kelley, chief of law enforcement at the USAREUR Office of the Provost Marshal. Travelers who are lost or distracted, weighed down with bags, and carrying money and other valuables in obvious places, make great targets for thieves.
The best advice is to blend in with the crowd and look like the locals, OPM officials say. Don’t let your dress, talk or mannerisms identify you as American or a member of the military. Carry inconspicuous baggage, not military bags or luggage with unit logos. Don’t take uniform items or clothes with military designs with you.
Pickpockets are particularly active during the summer, OPM experts add, especially in major cities, and in eastern and southern Europe. They stalk tourists and strike when their victims are vulnerable. “If anyone jostles, bumps or crowds you, a pickpocket may be in action,” Kelley said. Thieves may also stage distractions by dropping something or causing a loud commotion, and steal your belongings while you are distracted.
Pickpockets often offer to help their victims load bags on trains, taxis or buses to give the thieves an opportunity to steal something out of them. They may cut backpacks open and take whatever drops out.
Thieves watch potential victims buy tickets, food or other items at train and metro stations to see where victims keep their wallets or money. Don’t make yourself an easy target, the experts say.
Kelley said women should never sling purses or pocketbooks over their shoulders, because many items are plucked out of open purses. He recommended that women carry handbags or purses in front of their bodies, and that men place their wallets in a front pants pocket if possible.
Some thieves also target those who have had one too many in bars and clubs late at night, or take unguarded valuables while their owners are swimming or asleep or away from their seats on a train.
Kelley said it’s best not to flash a lot of cash, and wise to not throw away receipts from credit card purchases or anything with an account number on it that a thief could use.
OPM officials said members of the U.S. forces community can contact their local Provost Marshal Offices for more security tips or download National Crime Prevention Council travel safety pamphlets at www.ncpc.org/resources/files/pdf/traveling.