Pickpockets, Beggars, Crime and Scams, London
My travel companion learned a very expensive, not to mention time consuming lesson on this trip, like all big cities London has pickpockets working all through out it and they like to target tourists because we're often not paying attention. In our case we were sitting in a pub, they grabbed her purse without either one of us noticing. When we told the bartender about it, they said it happens all the time in their pub and while they have CCTV in the bar, that didn't help get her purse back. Later on in the week, we saw a sign in another pub warning of it. I never travel with a purse although I frequently have a backpack, I tend to keep my valuables on my person and try to keep my backpack somewhere hard to grab.
The pub referred us to the local police station, luckily she got back her purse, her wallet with credit and ATM cards still intact but they took her passport which is not so easy to replace. If your hotel has a safe, leave your passport at the hotel. There is no need to carry your passport in London, you can always bring along a copy and carry that with but it's really unlikely that you would ever need to show it. It's also a good idea to bring a list of your credit card numbers and contact numbers in case you need to cancel your cards.
As I discovered, there really are pickpockets in London, and if they can tell that you're a tourist they'll target you sooner or later. It's best to have your wallet inside your shirt, jacket, or in a zipped pocket, and it may be prudent to have some spare cash stowed away in your underpants. Just try to pay attention in crowded areas or subways and you should be safe. The website listed below has more info on the pickpocketing phenomenon and how to avoid falling victim to it.
I was moving home from the west of London to the east and had to carry a lot of luggage along with me, which also included a lot of silly things in plastic covers.
This was an empty compartment n there boarded 2 ladies from Hammersmith looking so very harmless. I and my dear friend got talking like idiots and when we reached our destination in Upton Park we realized there was a packet missing. These talented ladies did it to us rigth there in an empty compartment, mind u they were sitting rigth in front of us. But it was ok cos what i had in that lost package was an old T, dirty undies n soiled socks. But beware, u could lose something more precious. How smart of them.
Moral of the story, Hold on to ur belongings for dear life.
If you get attacked anywhere, know that lands word for FIRE! If you get attacked and yell help, not many people would rush to your rescue! No one wants to get hurt or die for a stranger! Yell "FIRE!" Everyone, pretty much everywhere, will come running to see a fire! The attacker shouldn't be dumb enough to stay and continue to attack with several people running for the show!
People, all one has to do is look at English history, being Australian, our history began with the English dumping the scum of "their" society here over 200 years ago, so this sort of petty crime has been inbuilt into their lower socio-economic classes. Today is no different with the exception, unemployment and drugs are the driving motivation, coupled with the inability to control who crosses their borders will only exacerbate the problem for years to come. I have spent half my working life in SE asia and have never had a problem but the felling I have when in the UK is that you always have to be looking over your shoulder. So if you wish to visit London, be prepared to be done over.
Now it also looks like the Government is getting in on the act with the obscene increases in departure tax.
Hey, Listen all you Londoners out there who live in shared houses.
The crime is not only happening outside the little bubble of safety that is your residence.
I moved to London about 6 years ago and to start with I lived in various shared accomadations.
One of these included a room in a house owned by someone I actually knew very well and respected. A three bed house shared by two of us.
So I thought when I moved in that the other house mate would be respectable too.
Well, I did actually get on really well with the guy who lived there, even socialising with him most days, but little did I know he had a cocaine habbit, and from the time I actually got comfortable enough in the house to just hang up my jacket behind the door when we came in from the pub, he was helping himself to small amounts of my pocket change.
I noticed that I was spending a lot of money each day, but I had just moved to london and started going out here so I was'nt quite aware of how much.
Plus i'm not much of a financial whiz when it come to checking my spending.
The fact was that he was helping himself to quite a lot.
It all became apparent when I came down stairs one day as my house mate was leaving the house.
I put on my jacket about 10 minutes later and left myself.
Later as I went into my pocket, getting off of the bus my card and the cash were missing.
I thought i'd been pick pocketed. I called the police and the bank.
But when I checked with the bank, the time of the withdrawel of the 100? pounds was from my local cash machine at same the time I left my house.
Later that day my mate came back wasted even though he was apparently out of cash....when I told him what happened he just came straight out offered me a line of cocaine for the first time since I had met him.....Alarm bells rang, and it all made sense...
He was always coming back wasted, even when he was out of money....and I was always short on cash...which I kind of attributed to higher living costs in London....
was i taken for a ride?....yes
was I stupid?...no. I felt secure in my home even though I was living with a complete stranger.
My advice...If you live in any sort of shared accommodation...with anyone!...keep all your belongings in your lockable room.
Your new mate you go down the pub with will inevitably, at some point be able to catch a glimpse of your card number as you call in for cash on your way out. And a desparate cocaine addict will take it and use it every time your asleep or drunk on the beer he has bought you...with your own money.
Oh and by the way, don't expect to get any justice from the police because I tried....Even though the cash machine he was using had a camera, I was told there was not enough evidence.......go figure
I am sure this little scam is being used all over london in shared accommodation situations without the victims even realising.....re-evaluate your spending now...check your statements.
Be careful when driving in Grove Park, South London especially the junction where the railway station is. There is a gentleman who likes to run out from behind buses or other high vehicles in front of slow moving traffic. He basically looks to get clipped or will actually jump onto the bonnet of your car. He will protest that it is your fault but when the police and ambulance arrive he'll say he's fine, avoid giving details to the police and refuse to be examined by the ambulance staff. In fact he will even jog off fit as a fiddle.
Make aure you call the police immediately and ask witnesses to remain until the police arrive.
Make sure you collect all the details of witnesses who give statements!! They will be in your favour as it will not be your fault, the witnesses will see quite clearly it is a 'dive'. You may need their statements in court. Take photos of the man and any 'injuires' he claims to have sustained.
He then goes to a local hospital afterwards of his own accord and fakes or exaggerates the 'injuries'. Clever chap looks your number plate up on Experian (or he is a traffic warden and has the necessary access to the database to look up your details). Before you know it your insurance company are calling you up stating that someone is trying to claim against your policy for an accident.
You have been warned - be aware!
Be very suspicious of men who approach you in Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square during a night out to the clubs and bars in this area. Many of are simply club promoters who will harass you and your group with offers they often can't actually make good on - others are outright thieves. I had the misfortune of being targeted by a pair of men, one of whom went for a twenty pound note whose corner had just peeked out of my right front pocket. As I turned to grab the man, he punched me in the face and took off down the street. The other man waited for my pursuit and simply stuck out his foot when I was going by.
I know the title of this tip may seem a bit odd, but I will explain leter. firstly, I must stress that this tip will probably not apply to 99% of visitors to London, but I am submitting it for the 1% it may be of use to. Secondly, the tip refers to some very specific areas of London, and those are not normally associated with tourism. It does happen to be a particular problem in the area of the East End I live in, in fact the accompanying photograph was taken from my home.
If you see men (it will never be women) chewing what appears to be long twigs, and these men have an Eastern African appearance, you are probably looking at the consumption of Qat / Khat (there are various spellings). I mention the appearance of the participants, and it is certainly not a racist comment, merely that this substance is used exclusively by people from that part of the world, certainly in my experience.
Qat is effectively a naturally occurring amphetimine substance obtained by chewing on these twigs. The men will chew these things, often for a couple of days on end, and the effects are much similar to other amphetimine based drugs. They tend to get very voluble and can be aggressive. There are Qat establishments where the participants go and sit, somewhat similar in concept if not style, to an Amsterdam coffee shop. there is one literally yards from my home and it causes no end of trouble. It is interesting that the substance is banned in many countries but is still legal in the UK. I have personally witnessed literally a lorry load of it being offloaded to a premises locally.
If you do spot people taking Qat in the street, which is not that usual, employ the normal street tactics you would for other circumstances i.e. cross the road if possible, avoid eye contact, do not initiate conversation, and you should be OK. Whilst Qat does make men aggressive, and they certainly fight amongst themselves, I have not heard of "outsiders" being attacked, although I have been harrassed several times by people looking for money / cigarettes etc.
Like all these things, do not let it play on your mind, it is unlikely you will ever stumble across it but, as I say, I submit this tip as it may just be of use.
This is kind of dumb (actually really dumb), but for those of you whose home currency have a lot of dollar value coins (Canadians (like me), Aussies etc) think twice about those 1 and 2 pound coins in your pocket. The first time I visited London I was stopped by a woman pushing a pram in front of the Tower of London asking for some spare change so she could buy some formula for he baby (yeah, right). Being the charitable person I am I dug into my pocket and dropped a 2 coloured coin, similiar to our Canadian "toony" into her hand. Only after I had walked away (and she had disappeared) did I realize it wasn't a "toony" I gave her, but a 2 pound coin, which was the equivalent of almost 5 dollars!!! I'd never given 5 bucks to any bum or beggar in my life!! She must have thought she'd won the lotto!! I'm sure she would have been happy with 50p. Not an expensive lesson, but a valuable one. From then on I have paid very strict attention to coins in other countries...
Sadly London has its fair share of people asking you for money. I will share my philosophy for what its worth and you can ignore it if you wish.
I NEVER give to beggars. I DO give money to those who delight and entertain me in some way, be it music, juggling or whatever. I DO buy things I don't particularly need to support a local economy, a string of beads a picture or carving etc.
I consider this approach respects the receiver and the giver. I adopt this wherever I am in the world and I feel comfortable with it.
In London, I know that many so called 'beggars' are reputedly 'professionals' and go back to their comfortable homes at night. Many will use your money to buy drugs, is this the best way to help?
Make up you own mind, the choice is yours.
Update-KINGS CROSS railway station. This area is currently being extensively refurbished and is starting to become upmarket. Still have to be wary of pickpockets and the odd undesirable, but is much better than before.
Police are around, but keep a very close eye on your belongings in this area. Thieves realise many tourists are jet-lagged, disoriented in new surroundings and perhaps put at ease by Britains' general safe image. This place is better avoided. On the plus side , railway Stations like Euston, Victoria etc are safer and whilst there is still a risk of theft, better bets.
Do not buy travel cards from touts outside the stations or give them your used but still valid day tickets. These may be sold to fund drug habits or other illegal activities
As with any major city, London has it's dangers. If you are travelling alone by public transport late at night, try to sit near other people, if on a bus sit near to the driver.
Pick pockets operate on the underground, keep you bags closed/zipped up and your personal belongings close by.
Most importantly though is to use your common sense and to stay alert. However try not to worry too much, I feel London is quite a safe place and have never had any trouble.
There are more tips on the Visit London website.
There are genuine people who sleep rough / live on the streets who will beg for money. But the difficulty is sorting the genuine from the fake....
There are "groups" who do organised begging during the day and then go to the comfort of their homes at night!
There are Eastern European women who beg with a child, most commonly a baby, but this it is probably not their child, it is "on loan" for the day to make them appear all the more needy and thus make the begging all the more profitable. And usually the begging is "In your face"; persistent, involves them entering what you would refer to as "your space", and takes place in tube carriages as well as on the streets etc...
There is no way of telling the genuine from the fake - so, if you give... it has to be your call!
Like most of big cities, in London there are pickpockets, they are to be near the main sites in some areas you´ll find sings like the photo notice about it. London is not a dangerous city but if you need the police or you have an emergency dial 999 is the emergency number
Como en la mayoría de grandes ciudades en Londres también hay carteristas, suelen estar cerca de las principales atracciones turisticas. En algunas zonas encontrarás carteles como el de la foto en el que te avisan. Si necesitas la policia o tienes emergencia solo tienes que marcar el 999 que es el num de emergencias.