Insecurity in Paris for foreign tourists – Protect yourself easily

Insecurity in Paris for tourists: you are afraid of what has been said on social networks or in some press. And you are planning to visit Paris very soon?
Most of the information is misleading and out of context. For example, we found an article in https://hospitality-on.com/en/tourism/insecurity-tourists-paris-worries-hoteliers. This article was listed at the top of the Google list on September 2021. Il was written on June 19, 2013, “updated” on May 30, 2018. It deals (still) with facts that go back to 2005. This information is clearly outdated.
Today’s reality is quite different.
In our post on “Insecurity in Paris”, we clarify the problem of insecurity in Paris. We are going to the source of the most recent available data on the subject (2019). We do not stop at rumors and other false information from social networks. We also remind you what to do in order to avoid any problems during your stay.

How unsafe is a tourist visiting Paris?

The total number of crimes recorded in 2019 in Paris is 242,915. These are:

  • Sexual violence: 2988
  • Assault and battery : 12 706
  • Theft with weapons: 822
  • Violent theft without weapon: 19 183
  • Non-violent robberies against persons: 163,444
  • Residential burglaries: 12951
  • Theft from vehicles: 9,359
  • Theft from vehicles: 19,280
  • Theft of vehicle accessories: 2182

Of course, the figures may vary slightly from one source to another. But those given above are those of the gendarmerie and the police and reflect well the current and real situation(1). But the important thing to remember is that for a tourist visiting Paris, the main potential risks are non-violent theft. As this list shows, the other crimes and offenses are rather between nationals. It concerns family disputes, relations between homeowners, cars, or business attacks (jewelry stores). As for sexual violence, it is extremely rare that female tourists are victims. Comparison of the statistics between European capitals is usually in favor of Paris. On the other hand, tourists in Paris stay in places crowded late in the evening or even during the night.

(1) French Ministry of the Interior: “Interstats: public statistics on insecurity and delinquency

Statistics of insecurity in Paris compared to other cities in the world

A Mexican association, the Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, ranks the 50 most dangerous cities with more than 300,000 inhabitants. The study is based solely on the number of homicides in relation to the population. 42 of these 50 metropolises are in Latin America (the city of Caracas is at the top). Others are in South Africa. In Irapuato, Mexico, the homicide rate (not counting other crimes and misdemeanors) in 2018 was 81.44 per 100,000 inhabitants. For comparison, the Ile-de-France region had a homicide rate of 1.3 per 100,000 that year. Or 62 times lower than in Irapuato.

Paris, a dangerous city, for what and in relation to what?

The figures in Paris between 2015 and 2019 show an increase in certain delinquency acts. It was a little more of what is observed in the rest of France. Crime in Paris has shifted to “quick actions type”. Mainely snatchings, where the loot usually consists of expensive smartphones immediately resellable at a good price. And the tourist areas are a hunting ground of choice for pickpockets. This kind of crime falls under the category of “non-violent robbery against persons”. See below to protect yourself.

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, underlined the “problem of increasing insecurity. It comes from an accident on the roads, pickpocketing in the metro, burglaries”. But the feeling of the Parisian population remains positive. A regional study has been conducted for the Ile-de-France area. An overwhelming majority of Parisians find their environment safe (91.4% of them) and their neighborhood pleasant to live in (94.1%).

On the other hand, Paris suffers from a degraded image following the street protests in late 2018 and early 2019. They made news around the world. But in reality, where is the insecurity in Paris in this exceptional context? Exchanges of projectiles that risk injury happened a few times between police and demonstrators. It was located in 2 or 3 known streets or avenues. and always the same ones. You can be caught in the “turmoil” only if you “go and see on the spot”! Besides, this “bad mood” lasts 2 or 3 days. It is therefore not a safety issue for visitors only a few days in Paris.

“Ordinary” delinquency in Paris is not uniformly distributed, so it is easy to avoid insecurity

Apart from specific places, the city of Paris is no more dangerous than any other large European or North American city such as Athens, London, or New York! These few areas of Paris are reputed to be “dangerous” mainly for money and telephones. Not for people. Moreover, these neighborhoods to avoid are largely in the suburbs, outside of the city of Paris. It means outside of the areas that tourists frequent, although they are often the source of Paris’ tarnished image.

This also means that the neighborhoods in Paris where caution is required, are not ghettos. They can be crossed during the daytime without being assaulted. Most of them are also crowded and there is no great risk of being mugged in the crowd. But on the other hand, the crowd can be an opportunity for pickpockets.

The districts and neighborhoods of Paris where caution is advised

Arrondissements-paris-insecurite-touristes

Out of the 20 arrondissements, we must point out potential insecurity in Paris 19th, 18th, and 10th arrondissements. They are grouped in the north of Paris, close to each other. They also include 2 big train stations (Gare du Nord et Gare de l’Est) ). Moreover, there is little to see in these districts for tourists:

  • The 19th arrondissement is among the most sensitive and least safe. With a high level of delinquency, an organized drug trafficking network, a high rate of crimes and misdemeanors. Here are the main neighborhoods to avoid in the 19th arrondissement:
    • Place Stalingrad between the 19th and 10th arrondissements (territory of crack dealers and consumers)
    • Place des fêtes
    • Cambrai
    • Belleville
    • Mouzaia
    • Danube
    • Jaurès
    • Ourcq
  • The 18th arrondissement is popular with tourists, especially the Montmartre district. But there, the atmosphere is “good-natured” and the risks are limited to non-violent theft of phones, bags and wallets. Some other areas of this district are much less attractive. Among the main areas to avoid in the 18th arrondissement, after dark and when you are alone, are
    • Goutte-d’Or
    • La Chapelle
    • Château-Rouge
    • Barbès
    • Pigalle
    • Porte de Clignancourt and around the Saint-Ouen flea market
  • The 10th arrondissement of Paris is not a dangerous arrondissement. Only to avoid is the Gare du Nord area. It has become the territory of drug addicts. Assaults, fights and thefts are part of the daily life of the residents.
  • Other sensitive neighborhoods in Paris. After the 10th, 18th and 19th arrondissements, there are a few other sensitive parts of districts in the center of Paris. Their bad reputation is due to drug trafficking and the violence of certain areas (list not exhaustive):
    • Cité Cambrai, Curial, les Chaufourniers (cité rouge), la Cité Blanche and Riquet-Stalingrad in the 19th
    • Les Fougères and les Amandiers in the 20th district
    • La Brillat and Chevaleret in the 13th district
    • Porte de Vanves in the 14th district
    • La Roquette in the 11th district
    • La Grange aux Belles and Buisson-Saint-Louis in the 10th district
    • Les Perichaux in the 15th district.

The image of the city of Paris has suffered for several years from the development of petty crime of all kinds, and street vending. Knowing these risks in advance will allow you to better prevent them and avoid insecurity in Paris for you and your family.

If you must visit the suburbs, avoid going to the northern suburbs (Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers, Saint-Ouen, etc.) after dark. Take care to keep a low profile and refrain from wearing jewelry. Also, avoid highly visible clothing that identifies them as members of a religion or political movement.

Non-violent theft against persons: pickpocketing in particular. Protect yourself easily

The precautions to be taken against insecurity in Paris are the same as those that should be the rule for any tourist, in any country, and in any capital city in the world. Without being exhaustive:

  • Pickpocketing is the most common form of crime.
    It is the action of “emptying” a bag or a pocket without the owner noticing it. This is the activity of pickpockets. Therefore, you should always be careful with your personal belongings. Il is especially true in crowded places like trains, subway stations and popular tourist areas. Money seat belts and traveler’s checks are excellent ways to protect yourself. Keep your money and papers (passports, etc.) close to you and in front of you. It should be in a closed pocket, never in a backpack, never in the back pocket of your pants. Also, avoid carrying more than €100 in cash with you at a one time. Payment by card is accepted almost everywhere, even for very small amounts (a few euros). If your hotel room has a safe, consider using it to store valuables or cash.
  • Snatch and grab.
    This is often the theft of a phone (but not only, a bag, etc.) that you have in your hand. For example, the thief on the subway platform snatches it from you just before the automatic closing of the door. He stays on the platform when you leave with the car you are in. If it is in the street, he runs away.
  • The “group” theft.
    Often it is young people (especially girls) in groups of 4 or 5. They heckle or call out to you to distract you while one of them helps himself to your pocket. Don’t answer (even if it’s in English) and don’t let them approach you, move away. They are under the thumb of the Romanian mafia in general.
  • Begging still driven by the mafia.
    They are women with a very young child who beg. But their poverty is only apparent, don’t let yourself be pitied. The baby is most likely not that of the woman who carries it.
  • Various scams.
    Manipulation (they will exploit your goodwill or politeness so that you become indebted to them).
    Pretend make you save time or money. Exploit your ignorance (subway ticket scam, gambling scam, fake cab scam, gold ring scam, charity scam, fake petition “for a good cause” etc.)
  • Never leave your bags or valuables unattended.
    It is true in the Paris Metro, RER, bus, airport or other public places. Not only do you risk having them stolen, but unattended bags can be considered a security threat. They will be immediately destroyed by security guards or the police (Plan “Vigipirate”).

This list seems impressive and could make you give up visiting Paris. But the reality with insecurity in Paris is quite different: all inhabitants of the world’s major cities live in this context all the time. As a visitor, you just have to apply a few rules and you will not have any problem:

  • Watch your luggage and other items when you put them down in public places, even at your feet
  • Keep your valuables close to your body, in front of you, in closed pockets
  • Don’t carry large sums of money around and never take money out of your pocket in public
  • Do not answer strangers who approach you on the street or elsewhere. In particular if you feel he want to talk to you without any real reason
  • Don’t walk around in crowded places with your cell phone in your hand or on the phone
  • Stay away from people who are too close to you to touch you

When taking a cab, be sure to check with the driver the estimated cost of the cab ride before you get in. It is rare, but it does happen, that unscrupulous cab drivers overcharge unsuspecting tourists. Be sure to watch the meter, and ask questions if necessary. Also, giving the driver a suggested route in advance with a map is a good idea. Remember that there is a “cab police” (often present at airports). Before paying, ask for a receipt (invoice), and in case of a dispute, don’t forget to write down the number of the cab, the route, the place, the date, and the time of your “discussion”.

Sexual violence: are some travelers more vulnerable than others?

On the subject of sexual violence, it is necessary to clarify the subject right away. Paris is not a place where women in particular (and other minorities) are sexually assaulted “at every street corner”. The figure of 2988 sexual assaults “includes” all kinds of violence in this field. In particular those perpetrated “in the family”, therefore between “nationals”, which are the great majority. It is also necessary to relate this figure to a population of more than 2,000,000 inhabitants for Paris. And it is 11,000,000 counting the whole of Paris + suburbs. To be added the 50.6 million tourists welcomed in 2019 in the region Paris Île-de-France. We cannot, therefore, say that Paris is a city where women are in danger, especially tourists.

The few precautions to take in this regard are the following. They, of course, especially apply to women and everywhere in the world:

  • Stay in crowded or busy places – which is almost always the case in Parisian neighborhoods visited by tourists
  • Do not travel alone when it gets dark and limit your travel to places where there are other tourists or locals. That is 95% of Paris
  • Avoid taking the metro, RER or suburban trains (if you have to go to the suburbs for example) in the late evening. It means 11 pm or later. Also avoid the ends of lines where there are fewer passengers (the metro stops between 0:30 and 1 am). This can also be true around Les Halles, Chatelet, Gare du Nord, Stalingrad and Jaures metro stations late at night. These areas are sometimes known for gang activity and especially drug dealing.
  • Avoid dressing in an equivocal way. That can be interpreted as provocative (in summer, the clothes of some young women are more like a bikini). They are easily spotted because they are far from the usual “Parisian” style)

Also, if Paris is statistically a safe place for women, it’s a good idea to avoid smiling or having prolonged eye contact with men you don’t know. In France, this is (unfortunately) sometimes interpreted as an invitation to make advances. Also, avoid (too) easily striking up a conversation with a stranger or even responding to his flattering remarks (of course).

Insecurity in Paris for LGBT visitors and same-sex couples visiting Paris is very low. They are generally welcome in the city and should feel safe and comfortable in most places and situations. However, there are some precautions to take in certain conditions and areas and simply be discreet.

Insecurity in Paris and terrorist attacks: should we be afraid ?

Over the years, terrorist attacks have taken place in Paris, in Europe, especially in London and Germany. Is visiting Paris safe? The November 13, 2015 attacks in particular remind us that Paris can be a target for terrorists. Like any country with an active foreign policy, France had and always has external enemies that could attack it on its territory. This is now also true for the United States since September 11, 2001.

Parisians have lived with this potential risk for decades. But the country does not remain inactive in the face of the terrorist threat. The French intelligence services are really effective but not infallible.

Since 1991, France has put in place an anti-terrorist system called “Vigipirate“. It allows for the protection of the population and has different alert levels. It is depending on the level of threat involving reinforced controls and the implementation of additional police or military patrols. Parisians don’t even notice the soldiers of the Vigipirate system. They are patrolling insensitive and busy places, as well as in public transportation.

In these times of global threat, zero risk does not exist anywhere. Take it from the Parisians. In the aftermath of the Bataclan attacks in November 2015, they wanted to thumb their noses at the terrorists. They continue to assiduously frequent the cafe terraces. After all, if you have no control over the risk of an attack, you might as well go on living. And if you’re going to be shot, you might as well do it with a glass of good wine in hand!

Stay safe when crossing the street and manage traffic.

People-crossing-street-each-with-cell-phone-in-hand

Another insecurity in Paris that tourists fear is cars. Pedestrians must be careful when crossing streets and intersections with heavy traffic. Drivers can be more “aggressive” in Paris than in your own country. Even when the light is green, and for added safety, be careful and check left and right for oncoming traffic. Cross in the right lane, don’t imitate the Parisians!

It should be noted that the cause of accidents today is pedestrians in the streets. Most of them are crossing out of the right lane and with their phone in hand and active. They often forget that they are not alone with only the person they are talking to at a distance!

Driving in Paris is not recommended for people without experience of the capital or of busy town traffic. Parking is limited, traffic is heavy and erratic driving is the norm. If you must drive, make sure you have up-to-date international insurance.

Travel and Health Insurance – Emergency call in France

Travel insurance is essential. You can usually purchase travel insurance with your airline ticket. It is often included with your credit card.

International health insurance is also a good choice. Most travel insurance packages offer optional health coverage.

Finally, the national emergency call is 112 (as in the United States, 911). It is unique for any emergency, in France, and in Europe.
Note that in France the old “specialized” national emergency numbers are still active “in parallel”:

  • Number 18 for the firemen,
  • 17 for the police,
  • and 15 for medical emergencies (Service d’aide médical urgente or SAMU).
  • Finally, for the deaf and hard of hearing, you must use 114. This unique national emergency number is 114, contactable by videophone, chat, voice/text return via the application. Calls are handled by the national relay center located at the University Hospital of Grenoble. Specifically trained deaf and hearing professionals then process these messages. Immediatly after the contact the appropriate emergency services (police, ambulance, fire department), if the situation requires their intervention.