Advice given by the State Department to American tourists and just published in the belgian press (La Libre Belgique 17/06/2011):
The three main stations in Brussels (North, Central, and "especially" the South) are a fertile ground for pickpockets, thieves bags, small luggage and computers, warned the State Department in its recommendations to U.S. tourists . These tips are not new, but since June 14, they are available on a smartphone application, "Smart Traveler".
In the "crime", American diplomats point out that Belgium is saved "relatively" by violent crime, but the little street crime is "common".
"The mugging, theft of wallets and détroussages are common, especially in big cities," said the State Department, which points the subway stations and three stations in Brussels. "Something that thieves use is to distract you from spraying shaving cream or another substance," says the recommendation. "Another tip is to ask for directions while an accomplice steals your suitcase."
Voilà le conseil que donne le département d’Etat aux touristes américains (La Libre Belgique 17/06/2011):
Les trois principales gares de Bruxelles (Nord, Central, et "surtout" le Midi) sont un terrain privilégié pour les pickpockets, voleurs de sacs, de petits bagages et d’ordinateurs, prévient le département d’Etat dans ses recommandations aux touristes américains. Ces conseils ne sont pas nouveaux, mais depuis le 14 juin, ils sont disponibles sur une application smartphone, "Smart Traveler".
Dans la rubrique "crime", les diplomates américains relèvent que la Belgique est épargnée "relativement" par les crimes violents, mais que la petite criminalité de rue y est "commune".
"Les vols avec agression, les vols de portefeuilles et les détroussages sont fréquents, particulièrement dans les grandes villes", explique le département d’Etat, qui pointe les stations de métro et les trois grandes gares bruxelloises. "Un truc que les voleurs utilisent est de vous distraire en vous aspergeant de mousse à raser ou d’une autre substance", poursuit la recommandation. "Un autre truc est de vous demander le chemin pendant qu’un complice vous vole votre valise."
My wallet was stolen on the Metro near Brussels MIDI station. As I got on the Metro, a kind man offered me his seat and started to talk to me. He then helped me figured out which station I need to get off to get to my hotel and helped me with my luggage as I got off. Right afterwards I found out that my wallet was gone.
I went and report the incident to the police but they were very unconcerned, said it happens all the time and simply asked me to fill out a report.
Be very very wary ! especially of any one trying to befriend you on the metro no matter how harmless or friendly they seem. Keep a close watch of all your belongings. One day, with a 15 minutes metro trip, I was approached by 3 different people asking for money + another asking to use my phone. Brussels is not a safe city, especially around the city center. I noticed so many suspicious loitering people around so be very careful !
After returning from this city, I am pleased to be home. A group of us went for the wekend and within 10 hours of being there we came across a lot of trouble. FirstlyI was walking down the street to be welcomed by a group of Algerians who was very pleased to see us and felt the need to get close to me. The strange thing is, he tried to hump my leg like a dog, to which I pushed him off and instantly noticed that he had my wallet. Both my friend and I chased him and caught up with him and gave him a lesson in trying to rob a scouser (lol). I would like to think he was in no fit state to rob anyone else that night or week. However as we left our friends to chase him, they found themselves in trouble as a group of black lads decided they wanted to fight. Lucky for us no one was hurt, but they did suggest that they were coming back to shoot them (not sure if they tried to come back as we all went back to the hotel). The next morning whilst discussing our eventful night, another firend had realised that he had 200 euros stolen, a mobile phone, and all his credit cards.
I have no interest in visiting this city ever again. I have never came across such a range of violence and thefts in such a short time.
Got robbed by 2 young guys probably in their early twenties in broad daylight near the grand place. Worse thing is we waved down a cop car and told them what had just happened but they dont seem to care at all. We were told to go to the police station. We said thank you and quickly walk back to our hotel and took the next flight out of there. Definitely not a tourist friendly place!!
One of the reviewer has rightly pointed out about not letting your guards down by the sight of cops on the streets or the sights of the good neighbourhoods. You can get robbed, pickpocketted anytime anywhere even in the best looking neighbourhood. Most big cities do have issues but nothing come close to the audacity i see in these hooligans in belgium.
I have attached a picture of the street where i was robbed!!
Everywhere you go in Belgium, one thing that you need to keep in mind at all times are muggers. No matter how safe it might seem or how many policemen you see on the street, you still need to be careful, especially at train stations throughout Brussels - Nord, Centraal or Zuid / Midi.
I have been robbed before. A group of Moroccans came from behind smacked and punched me until I fell and lifted my large suitcase, briefcase and a hand luggage and fled. They didn't wear any mask or anything. The impact of being hit had left me completely blank and just stood there not knowing what to do, say or where to go. I lost completely everything. The police officers even told me that it's quite a dangerous city for tourists.
Do be careful. On my last trip, nothing happened to me (Thank God) but I noticed that most locals would sling their bags over their other shoulder and always keep a hand on their bags.
Criminality has markedly increased these ten last years in Brussels.
The authorities say it is only a feeling of insecurity "un sentiment d'insécurité" but the 1 million inhabitants of Brussels say it is a fact.
On 12/12/2010 newspapers published the results of a study of criminality in the Brussels railway and metro stations made by a MP for the year 2009.
Here the facts:
9.208 criminal offenses were registered in the Brussels subway and railway stations. Of these 6.428 in railway stations and 2.780 in subway stations. That's an average of 25 per day.
The three major railway stations Bruxelles Nord, Central and Midi account for 84 percent of criminal acts in the railway stations.
Bruxelles Midi-South is the most dangerous with 60% of them. The underground metro station is also the most dangerous of all Brussels metro station with 10% of criminal acts. (Outside it is not better; avoid this area).
Now as Brussels Midi-South is the station for the Thalys and Eurostar fast international trains, tourists have to be careful especially for the pickpockets.
As were leaving a tram at Trinité, a man pushed against my friend to distract him from the fact that he was stealing banknotes from his pocket. When we noticed this the thief ran away. We chased him, calling for assistance as we went ("stop thief!"). A helpful man joined us in the chase. After a bit more than a kilometre (just past Place Loix) the thief ran out of energy (He was quite quick at the start but we go jogging most lunchtimes and could have kept going a bit longer) and tried to dispose of the notes. We caught up with him and restrained him (see photo). He was berated by some bystanders including a shopkeeper and a Brazilian who told him that he should get a job instead of stealing. The shopkeeper called the police who arrived after about 20 minutes in 2 cars (maybe if they came with fewer numbers they could cover more cases or react quicker).
We were driven to the police station. On the way the police were discussing which article of the Belgian penal code to use. In the end they decided to classify it under "vol" (theft) I am not sure what the other categories are. Although they didn't seem very busy we had to wait some time at the police station. In the end and between smoking breaks they found the time to take our statements. They told us that they had identified the thief through fingerprints and would put him before a magistrate in the morning. The whole process from the theft took about 2 hours. The police station was in Rue des Lapins and we had to make our way back by taxi.
The thief told the police that he was Egyptian but they thought he was Algerian. We felt a bit sorry for him but the level of crime in Brussels is very high and something needs to be done. I have had my house burgled twice (on second occasion getting bashed by one of burglars when I apprehended them), had items stolen from my office three times (two computer screens, two cameras, one cell-phone and one jogging watch with GPS), had three bicycles stolen (two were my employer's) and one plantpot (including plant) was taken from my windowsill.
I was at a local train station at 10 pm near grand place with my wife. We had just entered the station when two young guys ( around 22 yrs ) approached us. One of them suddenly spoke something in french and then he put his leg between my leg for a jig OR he was kind of showing some football trick. I got scared and we started running , he could hold me and do this for 1-2 mins , I managed to free myself and we boarded next train. The moment we reached next station , I realized my wallet was gone. That chap had taken my purse and I didn't realize in all running away from him. At the train stop I rushed to police men , there were 3 of them , I told them what happened to me. They simply looked at their watch and told me that its over 10 pm and they are on duty only till 10 pm. They asked me to go back to station I boarded , get out of it ,walk for 2 kms and there was a police station, put the complaint there. I was dumpstruck. Had no choice but did that but no use in the end.
1. Never put wallet in back pocket of your jeans/trousers
2. Preferably , just carry minimum cash and keep then in front pockets OR in belt pocket.
3. Even if you have to carry your wallet , keep one card safely at back hotel or with your wife/friend etc. ( that's what saved me else I had lost all money and cards with my wallet )
4. If you are out late in night, you should not look like tourist. They are easy target.
5. If you fall in such situation with strangers, shout at top of your voice . Whatever , just shout and shoe people away.
We ( self plus friend) went to Mannequin Pis at about 1930 hrs on a friday. The area was full of people, being a weekend, Short of the place, a young man tried to befriend us by making small talk about our country (India) and a famous film star from India. We just responded with a smile. He then put his leg between my friend's leg and did some kind of a dance jig. We continued towards Mannequin Pis and this guy followed us. On our way back, about 200 metres from the Mannequin Pis, this guy again came to my friend and engaged in small talk and again put his leg between my friend's leg for a jig. Suddenly, he took the friend's purse out from his trouser back pocket and tried to run. My friend caught hold of him but he managed to disengage himself and run full speed into the crowd and into the bylanes. My friend shouted for help and I ran after the man but he disappeared. We could not find the man though we combed the area for an hour thereafter. My friend lost all his money.
Thereafter, whilst walking to the hotel, two more young men followed us on different stretches and tried to engage us similarly in small talk, but being wiser, we rudely shrugged them off and kept them at an arm's length. All this happened not too late in the evening, at the central place of Brussels and at a time when the places were awash with people. Can a city be more unsafe. Please learn from this and be very careful. Do not carry purse/passport/pouches. Carry minimum essential cash/card in ur inner pockets and d o not allow any stranger to come anywhere close to you.
It was late at night and a guy approached me in the Galleries de St. Hubert right by the Grand Place. I was walking home from across town and about half way someone asked me for a lighter. In French I told him that I did not have one. I kept walking and about 2 minutes later in the Galleries he came up to me and started talking about Football. Then, I though to myself that it was kind of odd that he kept asking me what hotel I was staying at- I told him I did not have a hotel here and I was a study abroad student. About 30 seconds after getting away from him, I noticed that my phone, money, metro pass, and keys were gone from my left front pocket.
I went back to ask the guy if he "knew" where my cell phone was since I was sure he had just stolen it. He insisted that he did not know and miraculously it appeared on the ground a few feet away from him. I then asked about my keys and his friend pretended to pick them up from the ground and hand them to me when in fact he was simply setting them down from his pocket. Then I asked for my money which he insisted that he did not have. I told him in French that I knew that he knew where it was. He insisted that he did not. At that point I had to realize that there were two of them and one of me and nobody around to help me. I had to cut my losses and walk away from the situation because any more talk may not work to my benefit.
Based on this, I suggest the following:
1. If you are comfortable approaching your pickpocketer- do it. It is extremely rare that they are armed since guns are illegal in Europe. If they are armed, if you simply walk away and let them have your money you should not have a problem.
2. Don't be afraid to negotiate if you feel comfortable. They do not want your keys/ credit card/ phone. They just want cash! The rest they will give back to you. Why? Everything else can be tracked, but cash cannot. They only want cash.
3. If for some reason you have a lot of cash on you, put it in your shoe if you are alone late at night.
4. It is really easy to get pickpocketed... they are good! From a 2 minute conversation with someone your wallet can be gone.
5. Carrying a knife or pepper spray is a great idea. Do it!
6. People in Brussels are peaceful- the chances that they will hurt you physically or pull a knife/ gun on you are practically none. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself ans your wallet.
If you have any questions about this stuff, I have lots of study-abroad friends over here who have been pickpocketed and I can share advice and stories. Email me at email@example.com.
Brussels is AMAZING! ENJOY!
I visited Munich, Salzburg, Luxembourg, and Paris before visit Brussels. I found it was safe there, so make me a little unaware when I just arrived in Brussels. It was already night (8 pm) when I walked from Brussels Station to look for the hotel location. On the way, someone addressed me and said that there was bird-*** at the back of my husband bag. And yes, I saw it. Then we took a break because we didn’t understand the area and tried to read the map. While my husband tried to clean his bag, I stag on the map. I put my luggage and my bag on the top of luggage closed to me (on right side of me) but I DIDN’T TOUCH THEM because I hold the map. There is no one on the road, just my husband and I. Then two people passed by from my left side (I heard it from their voices). I didn’t see them and thought that my luggage is OK because they are from my left side while my luggage is on my right side. Five sec later when I see my luggage I recognize that my bag was gone. Luckily, my luggage is still there and passport, money and other important document was not in the bag.
Closed to the place that I stand, there was a casino or club and there were 3 people watched us. At the time I know that they were the thieves that stole my bag. One hour later after put my luggage at the hotel, I went to Grand Place and saw them watched to the tourist. May be they look for another careless tourist.
I think the man that addressed and said to me about the bird-*** is just one of them.
My advice is:
DON'T TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF YOUR LUGGAGE for a second and keep personal items on you. BE AWARED when someone notice and address you about something dirty such as bird-***, because probably means that you are their target!!!
I was coming from the airport, planning on going to Maastricht ( I am a student at Maastricht University). I thought of taking the train, I asked for a schedule (in the Netherlands, when asked for a train schedule, the ticket officers will print out a schedule), but the guy said just one just one stop.. well i took his advice and got out at Brussels Nord.... I was hanging around at the platform trying to figure how to drag my big suitcase downstairs.. there was only this little stairs in front of me. So I walked further and I found big stairs.. While I was coming down I was approached by a guy, he said that there was shampoo at the back of my jacket. He was speaking French, I couldn't understand what he was saying, all i understood was shampoo.. i was distracted and tired, was trying to confront this guy.. suddenly another guy came out- out of nowhere- took my laptop bag, this other guy sprayed shampoo on my eyes! I lost basically my laptop, my wallet, my passport, resident permit.. just everything! I could not believe that it happened to me.. it was at 9 :40 AM!!! I panicked.. I kept on bouncing back and forth.. there was only two securities at Brussels North station just 2!!! they told me to go to Midi.. but when I reported to the police, I was shouted at and the policeman seemed annoyed unbelievable! I was robbed and this policemen seemed to care less... !!! I asked politely whether i could borrow 5 euro.. and he just said NO.. ! Luckily, I had my ticket to Maastricht in my jacket. I felt lost and just couldnt really describe what happened to me that day. Since the day I got robbed, I never step foot in Brussels..... I didnt like the way the securities, and the policeman were treating me. I called several times whether they found my stuff, they told me that when things get stolen they would be returned to the respective embassy! how would they know if that is my stuff!! do they just assume that is my things and send it to the Indonesian embassy...
My advice to those who are travelling to Brussels and other places in Europe..
Be aware of Pickpockets.. and keep an eye on your luggages, dont get distracted.. pickpockets and luggage theft do not only happen at night, but it could also happen in the morning or midday.....
Beware of people loitering around the square and offering to take a photo of you with your camera - especially if you are alone. You might lose it.
There are of course lots of tourists as well as locals who are there for legitimate business, but you should be aware.
Hey, I can say all the warnings in the above comments are right. Yesterday my bag was stolen in Brussels Central while taking a picture in a photo cabin. Now I was very lucky as nor my wallet nor my mobile were inside the bag. Event though it still was a bad thing: my favourite bag, my keys, a sweater, a jacket and my favourite scarf. Anyhow, I gave an item description at lost & found in brussels central and afterwards I went looking around in the neighbourhoud of the station. Because I guess if they don't find money they throw away the rest. And I found my bag in the park @ 'Kunstberg'. The bag, the keys, and a bit further the sweater also but apparently they took my jacket and the scarf :-( Don't understand it. Or maybe those are somewhere else lost in Brussels now. Anyhow it was a lesson again for me to be attentive and it could have ended much worse. So certainly check out as much places as you can after the stole something!
By the way, I went to Brussels Midi to the 'lost & found' and the guy working there was absolutely horrible!!! The wrong guy at the wrong place! Very unfriendly, telling me he couldn't do anything and that I didn't have to hope to find something back! Almost didn't give me a paper to make an item description... Unbelievable...
I read all the previous warnings, but i feel you can not be warned enough. I was in the Brussels DMV(getting car plates) and in the space of 2 minutes had my mobile stollen out of my pocket. There are cameras in there and whoever took did it fast and slick enough that there is nothing obvious on the video! They are professionals here and you will not feel a thing.
My friend had her purse taken off her childs stroller after getting off the train in Midi.
I would highly suggest using Brussels North station if possible. It is usually less crowded and easier to navigate.
Good luck to all!