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Security Briefing

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Travel Essentials

Security Briefing: Crime

The information below has been excerpted from the following: 1) the US Department of State's "International Travel" website (, 2) the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's "Smartraveller" website (, and 3) the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's "Foreign Travel Advice" website ( Additional information is available from these sources. World Trade Press annually assesses the information presented on this page.

United States: Department of State International Travel Information

Prior to travel to France, the U.S. State Department recommends that all visitors check the Department’s website for updated security advisories.


France and Monaco are relatively safe countries. Most crimes are non-violent, but pick-pocketing is a significant problem in many areas. See the section below entitled “Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim.”

The majority of crimes directed against foreign visitors, including U.S. citizens, involve pick-pocketing, residential break-ins, bicycle theft, and other forms of theft with minimal violence. Nevertheless, robberies involving physical assault do occur in Paris and other major urban areas. Visitors to congested and popular tourist areas (e.g., museums, monuments, train stations, airports, and subways) should be particularly attentive to their surroundings. Crimes against visitors are generally crimes of opportunity, though these crimes are more likely to involve violence on the street late at night or when the victim resists. As in any major city, women should exercise extra caution when out alone at night and/or consider traveling out at night with trusted companions. In general, licensed Paris taxis are safe and professionally operated.

Caution is required throughout France when driving through economically depressed areas or on highly traveled thoroughfares such as airport roads where there is a high incidence of “smash and grab” robberies. Thieves on foot or motorcycle will approach a vehicle that is stopped in traffic, smash a window, reach into the vehicle to grab a purse or other valuable item, and then flee. Keep doors locked and valuables out of sight.

There is generally an increase in the number of residential break-ins in August (when most French residents take vacation) and in December. The majority are attributed to residents not using security measures already in place, including double-locking doors and locking windows. Home invasions are often preceded by phone calls to see if the resident is at home. Often thieves who manage to gain access to the apartment building will knock on apartment doors to see if anyone answers, offering the excuse they are taking a survey or representing a utility company.

PARIS: Crime in Paris is similar to that in most large cities. Violent crime is relatively rare in the city center; however, extra caution is advised when traveling alone, especially in remote areas or at night. Pick pocketing is by far the most significant problem. In addition to purses and wallets, smart phones and small electronic devices are particular targets. In Paris, pickpockets are commonly children under the age of 16 because they are difficult to prosecute. Pickpockets are very active on the rail link (RER B) from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city center. Travelers may want to consider using a shuttle service or one of the express buses to central Paris rather than the RER. In addition, passengers are often targeted on Metro Line 1, which traverses the city center from east to west and services many major tourist sites. Schemes to distract and rob victims, such as asking if you would sign a petition or take a survey, are common and change often. A frequent method is for one thief to distract the tourist with questions or disturbances, while an accomplice pickpockets a backpack or a purse. Thieves may time their pickpocket attempts to coincide with the closing of the automatic doors on the metro, leaving the victim trapped on the departing train.

Many thefts also occur at the major department stores (e.g., Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, and Le Bon Marché), where tourists may leave wallets, passports, and credit cards on cashier counters during transactions. Thieves use popular tourist sites and congested areas to mask their activities. The crowded elevators at the Eiffel Tower, escalators at museums such as the Louvre, and the area surrounding Sacré Coeur Basilica in Montmartre are all favored by pickpockets and snatch-and-grab thieves.

There have been some instances of tourists being robbed and assaulted near less utilized metro stations. The area around the Moulin Rouge, known as Pigalle, requires extra security precautions to avoid becoming a victim. Pigalle is an adult entertainment area known for sex shows, prostitution, and illegal drugs. Unsuspecting tourists have run up exorbitant bar bills and been forced to pay before being permitted to leave. Les Halles and the Bois de Boulogne are other areas in Paris where extra security precautions are warranted after dark.

PROVENCE ALPES MARITIMES (PACA) / LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON (Marseille, Montpellier, Perpignan, Carcassonne Avignon, Aix en Provence, Arles, Cannes, Nice): The PACA/Languedoc-Roussillon region enjoys a fairly low rate of violent crime directed at tourists. The most common problems in the region are thefts from cars (both stopped in traffic and parked), luggage trolleys, and rental car counters at the major transportation hubs, including the Nice airport and railway stations in Marseille, Avignon, and Aix en Provence. Purse snatchings in transportation hubs are also a common problem.

The U.S. Consulate General in Marseille has noted an increase in holiday rental home burglaries and in necklace snatching. Keep your car doors locked and windows rolled up at all times. Valuables should be hidden out of sight to prevent snatch-and-grab attempts. Maintain visual contact with your car when visiting tourist sites, when using rest facilities at gas stations, or stopping to enjoy panoramic views, even for a short period, as thieves will break into windows and trunks to access items left in cars. Victims have reported break-ins within minutes of leaving an unattended car. Keep your passport in a separate location from other valuables.

Organized crime has increased in the south of France—especially in Marseille and Corsica, where feuding groups have been responsible for several recent violent incidents.  Although U.S. citizens are not targeted, you should maintain awareness and keep emergency contact information on hand should you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

STRASBOURG: Strasbourg's historic center enjoys a fairly low rate of violent crime. Pickpockets and snatch-and-grab thieves tend to concentrate their efforts in the Petite France historic district popular with visitors.

BORDEAUX AND THE AQUITAINE, LIMOUSIN, AND POITOU-CHARENTES REGIONS: Bordeaux and other cities in southwest France are considered fairly safe. In cities and during popular festivals that draw huge crowds, you should be wary of pickpockets and other crime aimed at tourists, especially near public transportation. Stolen purses, ID cards, and passports left in cars are common – particularly around renowned landmarks.

NOTE: Swimmers should be careful of strong riptides  along the Atlantic coast of Aquitaine and Poitou-Charentes.

LYON: Although levels of violent crime are low, Lyon has a fair amount of petty crime and vandalism. Late-night weekend rowdiness is common in the center of town and in areas with nightclubs. The city’s public transportation system is safe. Lyon has a 30 kilometer-per-hour zone in commercial districts, and the local police have increased traffic controls for drunken driving. Police have also installed speed and red-light radar systems. The number of stolen passports and personal items in the district remains relatively low, and attacks are rare. Police response to infrequent armed robberies and violence is generally immediate. Bicycle theft is a significant problem as Lyon becomes increasingly bicycle-friendly and more people cycle around town.

NORMANDY: Break-ins and thefts from cars in the parking lots at the Normandy beaches and American cemeteries are common. Do not leave valuables unattended in a car. Locking valuables in the trunk is not an adequate safeguard as thieves often pry open car trunks to steal bags and other valuables.

OVERSEAS (NON-EUROPEAN) FRENCH DEPARTMENTS AND TERRITORIES: Please see the Country Specific Information forFrench Guiana, French Polynesia, and the French West Indies for crime trends in these areas.

RENNES: In general, the city of Rennes is relatively safe and secure, and crime rates throughout this consular district tend to be lower than in larger cities elsewhere. There are occasional crimes in the center of Rennes related to drunkenness and rowdy behavior, with the largest and most boisterous crowds tending to gather on Thursday nights in the area around Rue Saint Michel (a.k.a. “Rue de la Soif” or “Thirst Street”) and the adjacent Place Sainte Anne. The local authorities make security a priority. Tourists occasionally encounter theft of valuables and passports. Valuables left unattended in rental cars overnight, or for extended amounts of time, are particularly susceptible to theft. In particular, tourist sites around Brittany warn travelers against leaving expensive items in view in parked cars due to frequent vehicle break-ins. Do not leave luggage unattended on trains or stations.

TOULOUSE AND THE MIDI-PYRENEES: Toulouse and the Midi-Pyrenees region are generally considered safe. Car theft, vehicle break-ins, petty theft, and burglary are the most common crimes, and they are more frequent in areas near railway stations and in city centers. Car-jacking and home invasions may occur, particularly in Toulouse. Home invasions usually target valuables and cars, but may include violence. Itinerant street people, often in groups accompanied by dogs, are increasingly prevalent in downtown Toulouse, particularly in warmer weather. While alcohol and drug abuse can make them unpredictable, incidents of crime are relatively rare.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Common-sense security precautions will help you enjoy a trouble-free stay. Most problems can be avoided by being aware of one's surroundings and avoiding high-risk areas.

When going out, carry only essential items: ONE credit/ATM card, ONE piece of identification, and no more than €40-50. Avoid carrying high-value jewelry and large amounts of cash. Valuables should be kept out of sight and in places difficult for thieves to reach, such as internal coat pockets or in pouches hung around the neck or inside clothes. Shoulder bags and wallets in back pockets are an invitation for a thief.

Keep photocopies of travel documents and credit cards separate from the originals, along with key telephone numbers to contact banks for credit card replacement. Raise your awareness level while in crowded elevators, escalators, and metro cars. When possible, take a seat or stand against a wall to deter pickpockets and try to maintain a 360-degree awareness of your environment.

Carry only a purse that zips closed and ensure that it is carried under the arm and slightly in front of the body. Swing backpack-type purses around so that they are slightly in front of your body. Carry your wallet in a front pocket. While on foot, remain aware of your surroundings at all times and keep bags slung across your body and away from the street.

Hundreds of U.S. citizens per year have purses or bags stolen from the back of a chair or from under the table while in cafes, restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs/bars, including higher-end establishments. Never leave valuables unattended Thieves often operate in groups and often come to each other's aid if confronted. If a thief is caught in the act, a simple pick-pocketing could turn into an assault if you attempt to capture the thief. You can shout out for police assistance to attract attention, but do not pursue the thief.

Do not use ATMs in isolated, poorly lighted areas or where loiterers are present. Be especially alert to persons standing close enough to see the Personal Identification Number (PIN) being entered into the machine. Thieves often conduct successful scams by simply watching the PIN as it is entered and then stealing the card from the user in some other location. If your card gets stuck in an ATM, immediately report the incident to both the local bank and your bank at home.

Many theft and assault victims are targeted when making their way home from a late night out after drinking alcohol. If you go out late at night, do so with a group of trusted friends. There is safety in numbers.

Use only authorized taxis. Authorized taxis in Paris have the following equipment:

  • An illuminated “Taxi Parisien” sign on the roof;
  • A display meter showing the cost of the trip;
  • A display at the rear of the vehicle and visible from the exterior that enables the monitoring of the daily duration of use of the vehicle; and
  • A plate fixed to the front fender bearing the license number.

Letting the driver know that others are aware of your trip and the license number of the taxi may reduce the chances of sexual harassment or assault. Women may want to consider having another individual walk them to a taxi and, in plain view of the driver, note the license number of the vehicle, or call a friend while in the taxi and communicate the license number.

Avoid public parks after dark, as they are often frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes.


If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  We can:

  • Replace a stolen passport.
  • Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.  

If you have been the victim of a pick-pocket and would like to report the items lost or stolen please see our Guide for Reporting Lost or Stolen Items. For more serious crimes, compensation is available under French law to victims of crime committed on French soil under certain circumstances. Read our information on victims of crime for more information, including possible victim-compensation programs in the United States.

The Paris Police Prefecture publishes a pamphlet in English entitled “Paris in Complete Safety” that provides practical advice and useful telephone numbers for visitors.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in France is 112. In Monaco you may dial 17 to connect to the Police.

Non-French speakers may experience a delay while an English speaking operator is located. Alternatively, one can call French emergency numbers specific to the type of incident: 17 (police emergency); 18 (fire department/paramedics); and 15 (medical emergency/paramedic team/ambulance). 

Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Travel Advice

There is a high and increasing incidence of petty crime, especially bag snatching and pickpocketing, throughout France, particularly on the streets of larger cities such as Paris, Marseilles and Nice.

There has been a significant increase in violent theft on public transport, especially in Paris and its suburbs. Airports, public transport, tourist areas, hotel lobbies, restaurants and cafes, and beaches are prime targets for thieves who frequently work in groups using a variety of sophisticated or aggressive methods to distract and rob potential victims. Children can be used to distract tourists or even play an active role in theft.

There have been a number of crime-related shootings in Marseille in 2012 and 2013.

You should take care to protect your personal belongings (bags, cameras, passports) at all times, especially in high density tourist areas such as Pigalle, the Latin quarter, around the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, in department stores, restaurants, on public transport and at airports. Every monument in France that attracts tourists will attract interest from criminals.

There are frequent reports of crime, including robbery and muggings, on the train system servicing Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG) and Orly Airports. Travellers are advised to consider other means of transport from the airports to Paris, such as bus or taxi, particularly late at night and early in the morning.

There is a growing incidence of violent attacks against tourists by groups of young people, usually occurring late at night around major tourist attractions such as the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre and the Palais Royal areas, the Les Halles district, the Latin Quarter in central Paris and the environs of the Gare du Nord train station, main train stations in the provinces and on the RER (regional) train lines linking Paris and its suburbs.

Vehicles are frequently the target of crime, such as purse snatching from cars stopped in traffic and theft from unattended vehicles, particularly in the south of France near the Spanish border, near the Italian border and in the north, on the remembrance trail around the Somme and in Normandy. You should be particularly vigilant at isolated automated service stations and avoid sleeping in rest areas beside autoroutes (motorways) and major roads, or in makeshift or unauthorised camp grounds on the outskirts of cities. Rental vehicles are often targeted even in remote small villages. You should not leave valuable objects in the vehicle at any time.

Credit card and ATM fraud involving 'skimming' machines which can store card data is rising, particularly at automated service stations and in tourist areas. You should use ATMs within controlled areas such as banks, shops and shopping centres.

You should be wary of strangers that invite you for a complimentary drink or show at a private club. Some foreigners who have accepted such offers have had large sums debited from their credit cards before they have been permitted to leave the venue.

United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office Foreign Travel Advice

For assistance in any emergency situation, dial 112.

Take sensible precautions against street and car crime. Don’t keep your passport, credit cards and other valuables in the same place; use the inside compartments in bags where possible. Carry your bag across your body rather than on your shoulder.

Don’t be distracted around tourist attractions and cash points. Pickpockets can work in gangs: one to distract you while the other one goes into your bag. Keep your belongings close to you in restaurants and bars. Thieves and pickpockets operate on the Paris underground, RER lines and at mainline stations, for example Gare du Nord.

There have been several victims of serious assault on the RER line B, which serves Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports and Paris Gare du Nord Eurostar terminus. There have also been serious assaults on RER line D, which serves the Stade de France.

Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you’re going to drink, know your limit and take sensible precautions such as not becoming separated from friends.