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.
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."
Brussels may not be a big city but you need to pay attention as you would in any city: while muggings are rare, having your purse lifted is not at all uncommon. Be careful on the metro and also in shops with narrow aisles - try not to leave a purse (wallet) on top of a bag, even if it is zipped, it would be safer in your jacket pocket (not a back jeans pocket, of course!).
Like in every (OK, almost every) European touristy city be aware of pickpockets in Brussels - especially watch your properties, esp. passport, bank cards and cash at crowded places.
I didn't see any pickpockets in Brussels :-) and I thought that it was very safe place for visitors
Before you leave:
1. Write down (or/and put into your cell phone memory card) emergency numbers to financial institutions that issued your cards to be always ready to call them immediately when you lose your cards, make sure that the numbers work well from Brussels and store them at seperate, secure place;
2. Scan key pages (with your photo, personal dates, visa) of your passport/identity card and/or driving licence ; store them at secure and seperate place,
3. Lower your daily limits on your cards either for ATM cash and for electronic transactions (stores, restaurants etc.) to needed lever. Check whether you can change it (in emergency) by phone while you are in Brussels. Check whether your bank is responsible for illegal transactions made with your card (by a theft) before you report the loss of a card - buy such option (insurance) if possible,
4. Remember your cards' PIN numbers (if possible hehe, if not - write them down and store far away from your cards in secure place, better use your own code - multiply or divide numbers or so).
When you are in Brussels:
1. ALWAYS keep your cash and credit/debit cards close to your body (comfortable belts or any very unusual place for your purse or wallet recommended :-),
2. never carry all of your cash or cards/traveller's cheques at one place,
3. never, never carry with you your PIN numbers written down, esp. with your credit cards,
4. have your card ready - avoid having to go through your wallet or purse to find your card - and make sure that nobody can see you entering your PIN or transaction amount! You must always see when your card is when you pay in a store, restaurant etc.
Crime explodes in Brussels! That is what we could read on 22/09/2012 with full details and stats in newspapers like La Dernière Heure (www.dhnet.be) or La Libre Belgique (www.lalibre.be) under the title :
"La criminalité explose à Bruxelles.
La Grand-Place, la rue Neuve, le Sablon ont connu en 2011 une augmentation de près de 17 % des infractions" (Grand Place, the Rue Neuve, the Sablon in 2011 showed an increase of nearly 17% of offenses).
Now these parts of central Brussels are those most visited by tourists. Pickpockets are very active at the Grand Place and surroundings.
So be careful.
A Gallup on the website of that newspaper shows that 86% of the population feels unsecure in Brussels.
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.
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 !
I'm 28, Asian, born and raised in Brussels. Lately it seems this line has become a favorite amongst thieves. Why? Probably because a lot of tourists use it to move North-South and it's in the center of Brussels.
I use it from time to time and I have realized that during working/school days (when really crowded) it is not particularly dangerous. But on holiday, there are more tourists = more targets. So I want to help. I understand that when you're old, you're scared and you wouldn't move if someone was trying to rob you. Nevertheless you should read my tips.
- Just this week-end between stops De Brouckere and South station I helped two ladies who were targets of robbers (it was day time). When we alighted from the tram at South station I went to them and told them to really watch their stuff because I saw someone trying to go into their pockets. Later I saw the thieves walk away from them so I hope the ladies are safe...
- A few weeks ago I was walking outside the South Station (Ibis hotel area if you know) and I bumped into a (rather attractive) girl walking alone with a map (tourist alert!). She told me she was lost. I told her straight to not stay here as it was almost sunset, and pointed her to another area.
Simple tips for tourists:
- Thieves usually don't work alone so if you walk in small groups, you're already safer because you outnumber them.
- Look after each other when in groups.
- If you're alone, stay close to people (even if you don't know them) who look like they could defend themselves/you. At least have a man around.
- Watch your surroundings! Know where you are, and where you're going.
- If you're lost, stop, sit and ask in a cafe. In order not to get lost/waste time, prepare your journey in your hotel or prepare at home.
- Look around you and make eye contact. Let thieves know you're not weak. There's less chance a thief would want to rob you if you've spotted them already, isn't it?
- Thieves operating here are generally North African, Central African, gypsies... They are not all thieves and I'm not being racist, I'm a foreigner myself. It's just an observation.
- Blend in! Good tourists don't look like tourists: lose the sunglasses indoors, the Crocs, the sandals, the fanny packs, the size-A2 map.
- Hide valuables: leave passports in hotel safe. Wallet in front pocket for men.
- Don't show off your iPhone 4S in public, someone could snatch it and run away with it (it happened to a friend). You're on holiday, enjoy the city, stop facebooking!
- Be sure no one sees your code when you use your credit card. Use your other hand to hide the number pad.
- Watch your stuff AT ALL TIME: put your bag in front when in public transport.
- In the metro, get a seat or stand against a window, so no one can come behind you.
- Don't get distracted. Pay no attention to shady people asking for help (young girls, etc).
- Ask for help to the right people: in shops, cafes, policemen, info booths, honest-looking people (young students, working men, etc).
- Some honest people like me WILL offer help. There are good people in this world! ;)
So remember, be safe, and don't let thieves ruin your holiday. In general, Brussels is safe, safer than Paris or Barcelona, but thieves are everywhere.
If you need help prior to your trip, ask in a forum with good help (eg Trip Advisor).
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.
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 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.....
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.
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!