Crime and Safety in Italy

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Crime in Italy

  • Most crime in Italy involves home break-ins, vehicle break-ins, and pick-pocketing.
    • Homes: Most home break-ins occur when no one is home, but they have been known to occur while someone is still in the home (day or night). They occur more often during summer months and in neighborhoods closer to downtown. Most houses are equipped with metal blinds that can cover and bolt the windows shut while you are away or sleeping at night. Most home break-ins are 100% preventable by locking doors and covering windows. Home security can conduct a risk assessment of your home to discover any missing safety features that should be added. It is also advantageous to try to blend in with your neighbors… don’t hang US sports teams flags, don’t have lawn decorations with English wording like “Welcome”, and don’t hang laundry outside containing military uniforms or similar items.
    • Vehicles: Vehicle break-ins are more common in neighborhoods closer to downtown. Usually they are searching for gas coupons, which can be valued at well over 200 euro. Gas coupons should never be left inside of the vehicle, especially within plain view. Since replacing a busted widow can be costly and time consuming, some advise leaving the car unlocked (valuables removed) when parking in an unsecured area.
    • Pick Pockets: Pick-pocketing is common in cities all across Europe, especially tourist cities like Rome. Pick pocketing can occur anywhere, but usually occurs while using public transportation. When traveling, wallets should NOT be kept in your back pocket; keep it in your front pocket or a secured cargo pocket. In major cities, you may want to wear a money belt under clothing containing a secondary stash of money and credit cards. Cross-body purses are ideal for traveling and deterring theft. When dining at restaurants or using public transportation, your purse should be kept on your lap or wedged between your feet… never at your side, next to your feet, or hanging behind a chair.

  • Gypsies: Italy has a large Romani (aka gypsy) population. Romani families may beg for money on the streets or attempt to steal cash and jewelry from the home.
    • Thieves are most active during the summer months when Italians are on vacation. Gypsies may leave symbols on houses in light charcoal, mud, or spray paint indicating whether or not a home should be broken into. If you see any symbols on your home or in your neighborhood call the military police.
    • Some adults and even children will pick pocket, purse snatch, and camera snatch. They may use distraction techniques while they search through your pockets/belongings
  • Immigrants: It is not uncommon for North Africans to knock on your door to ask for money or food. One caveat to giving food/money is that they will often return to your home periodically asking for more.
  • Door to Door Salesmen: Those living on the economy will have occasional salesmen stop by and press the buzzer. One drawback of Italian homes is that there are no peep-holes, leaving you with the option to A) ignore the person or B) open the door.
    • Never buzz someone into the building or front gate, if you do not know them. This even includes workmen that claim to be from the utility company wanting to check the meter. You will be given advance written notice if a company needs to access the property or you can contact your landlord to verify their legitimacy.
    • Do not sign anything: companies will sometimes stop by and ask you to sign a form, not telling you what it is for. Later you may find out that you signed up to switch internet/cable companies.

Local Law Enforcement

  • Report any suspicious activity to the police on and off post immediately. Off post the Carabinieri (Italian military police) are in charge. They are the ones you would call first and then report it to the MP’s on post as well.
  • Italian law prohibits the carrying of firearms and most other weapons. Pepper spray may be used if it meets certain percentage requirements (found on the economy).
  • You cannot use any force upon an intruder unless the intruder engages first. Even then you can only exert the same amount of force that was done to you. For example, if an intruder shoves you to the ground, you cannot hit them with a baseball bat.

Home Safety Tips

  • Keep your windows and doors locked at all times, even when you are at home.
  • Keep your blinds and curtains closed, even if you live above ground
  • Do not leave valuables lying around the house and find a safe hiding place to keep them in.
  • Do not answer the door or buzz someone into your apartment building if you do not know them.
  • Install security alarms for doors and windows in the home.

Vehicle Safety Tips

  • Do not leave valuables in the car (GPS, Ipod, cellphone, sunglasses, coins, purses, gas coupons, or electrical cords).
  • It may be better to leave cars unlocked to avoid having to replace a broken window.
  • Be cautious when stopping to aid a motorist on the side of the rode. It can be trap, resulting in physical assault and theft. The best thing to do is call 113 (similar to 911).

Travel Safety Tips

  • Be aware of your surroundings!
  • Do not flash your wallet or valuables.
  • Use a money belt to store all of your valuables underneath your clothes.
  • Wear your purse strap across your chest. If the purse has a flap, keep the flap and latch side against your body. Walk against a wall rather than along a curb with your purse between you and the wall.
  • Wear your camera strap across your chest and store your camera in a plain bag (not a camera bag).
  • Do not identify yourself as a foreigner. Thieves will often target foreign tourists.
  • Try to blend in with the locals in the way you dress and the vehicle you drive.
  • Ignoring is sometimes the best policy to avoid scam artists.
  • Be wary of accepting someone’s help for directions,  using a ticket machine, etc.
  • Be wary of people posing as policemen or transportation officials asking for your wallet, passport, etc. Refuse and ask to be taken to a police station.
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