Monday, December 17, 2012

Watch Out, there's a Thief About!

I've been trying to find some statistics on crime in Montpellier. This was before I remembered that they are likely to be completely under-estimated because much petty theft goes unreported. You can read about the increase in home burglaries (up 12.5% in 2011) and muggings (up 33% in 2011) but if you get your bag nicked and returned minus the cash who's going to report that?

This was definitely the case when someone stole from my handbag last Friday. I was sitting in a rather nice pub in Montpellier - le Beehive - my bag down by my feet against a wall, and a shopping bag behind me blocking its exit.

In spite of being in a protected spot, when I got up for a minute or two to look at the menu board a couple of metres away, someone took advantage of my inattention and stole my wallet and my Kindle. S/he also stole some stamps (with vegetables on them); the ones you use to post letters to France, but not the other ones for the rest of Europe.

It's a British pub, so many people there were Anglo-Saxons, and as it wasn't very busy, they were all sitting at tables enjoying their drink and some were eating something tasty from the menu. The waiting staff is mostly British and there's a Dutch woman there too. All very nice and polite, and moving about the pub clearing up and serving.

I was pretty distressed to find my wallet and Kindle nicked. My credit cards were not in my wallet, but my driving licence was, plus car and insurance papers, an old carte de séjour and various other bits and bobs. Everything was there to steal my identity if someone so wanted.

The staff were most concerned, naturally, but as I was still able to pay my bill, the situation didn't get out of hand. I left my number 'just in case the items turned up'.

Funnily enough, they did. I went to pick them up the next morning. The cash had been stolen, as had the stamps. My Kindle is only an e-reader, not a tablet, so of no use to a thief (thankfully!). Both items were found stuffed behind the loo in the ladies. I was relieved to get almost everything back, not least because it meant I didn't have to start on the process of renewing all the paperwork and worry about id theft.

When I got back to the tram station where I'd left my car I saw a bunch of gendarmes. I went up to one and told her what had happened. I asked if it was of interest to them that I report the theft (for the sake of statistics). She shrugged and said I could do what I liked, and I understood they didn't give a toss.

So who knows how much petty theft is going on. I now know that the friend of a friend had had her purse stolen in the same pub, le Beehive, just the previous week. It's a nice pub, but I won't be going back. Not until they sort out the thieving, whoever it turns out to be.

29 comments:

  1. So sorry to hear this, Sarah. It must have left a very nasty taste in your mouth, especially just before Christmas. Whatever the rose-spectacled expat brigade likes to think, there's a fair bit of crime in France and it's perpetrated by both French and British.

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    1. It did, Perpetua, very nasty. I really didn't expect it to happen in that nice quiet pub. You're right, crime happens everywhere, and I think it's especially bad at this time of year. It's a shame, but I shall avoid the centre like the plague now.

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  2. Yeah, petty theft is a horrible under-reported crime statistic. As you mentioned, be greatful your most valuable items were returned. Money is replaceable, but having to go through all the trouble of renewing/reissuing all those important documents, is a huge pain in the ass. I too would stay the heck away from the hive.

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    1. Absolutely. Paperwork takes hours and hours to replace, waiting to see the gendarmes and then filling in forms and requesting new papers from the Prefecture. I'm glad I didn't have to go through that, but I'm also highly annoyed that my stuff got nicked in the first place.

      I'm only a bit grateful I got most of it back, and I definitely will do what I can to warn people about what is going on so they are forewarned and thus forearmed!

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  3. Oh no! Im so so sorry, wow good on you for leaving your name and address behind - shows you are an optimist which is always best in life really. Interesting though when you think that crime is much worse than it really appears. there are 25% less police here in Oakland and even before they did not come to your house or otherwise if the robbery had already been committed.

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  4. The waitress suggested I leave my number just in case. The cynic in me suspects that she knew my stuff would be found.

    The cops are not interested in burglaries here either. They won't come to the house. You have to report the incident and then make the claim on the insurance. There is no effort made to find out who did it, they just collect the information.

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  5. Wow, maybe it had happened before just exactly as happened to you? Do you think she was in kahoooots? So the reality is...things are so much worse than statistics show. Maybe its better to be in the dark. I am still very laid back about my stuff but we haven't (knock on wood - except for theft of our solar panels when they were building the house) had a burglary at the house...

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    1. I wouldn't be surprised, frankly. When I mentioned it on Facebook, someone suggested that it was the staff. It often happens in London too.

      I've been burgled twice, the second time 3 months after the first when we'd had time to get the insurance money and buy the stuff that had been stolen!

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  6. Oh wow, I can't believe you got your stuff back (minus the money). I am always so paranoid about losing my wallet/purse.

    And you're right, unfortunately there are so many theft cases out there that the police don't even bother looking into it if it's under 1000€....

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    1. And what would they do with the petty thieves anyway? Nothing much.

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  7. It is very common in France to have your bag stolen. But there is an etiquette: usually your bag is found later without the cash, as was the case with you. Nobody reports it. Sad but tre. Sorry it has happened to you though...

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    1. The big increase in muggings is due to the rise in the price of gold apparently. I no longer wear my gold necklace out in town!

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    2. Poor you. BTW I have just given you an award on my blog. Have a nice festive season! http://www.frenchyummymummy.com/2012/12/award-time-part-2_24.html

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  8. I think a lot of petty crime goes unreported in the UK for exactly the same reasons....and even when the perpetrators are caught, the consequences are minimal, so people lose heart and don't bother any longer and crime proliferates. Sorry to hear your story - that's a horrible experience.

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    1. It's hardly a deterrent to thieves if they know there are no repercussions for stealing. I suppose the police just consider it one of life's annoyances and advise people to never let their bags out of their sight.

      One would like to think this frees them up to go for the big crimes...

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  9. It's made me realise how careless I often am with handbags in restaurants and cafes. I have a habit of not zipping my bag up properly either when I'm carrying it. Will be more alert in future.

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    1. Times are that it is wise to assume the worst I fear. I will definitely be a lot more careful. Next time it could be my credit cards that they go for!

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  10. I'm so sorry as well to read about this for you. It's awful, not being able to relax - when you're out relaxing. You'll be on high alter wherever you go now - and so will we!

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    1. Indeed. There are some real scumbags about.

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  11. That is so horrible, not a nice experience for you at all. Sounds like it might be a regular thing there and that the staff are indeed in cahoots maybe? We have been burgled twice and as a pessimist by nature, I always assume someone is after my bag (not much in it mind you!)and never leave it out of my sight. Truth be told I would much rather be an optimist like my husband......a gentler happier way to live.

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    1. I'm usually quite careful, but not paranoid about my bag. From now on I'll be paranoid and assume the worst in any place whether it's other customers or staff.

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  12. Thankfully you got all of your papers and things back but I'm still shocked that someone acted that quickly! I wonder if they are always on the lookout or if it was a spur of the moment thing. Either way it's horrible and a reminder to keep a constant watch on my things.

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    1. I was shocked too. We were just standing there. I reckon someone was watching and waiting. It's a shame they didn't have menus on paper because I had to get up to look at the board. I didn't take my bag because it was just a couple of metres away! Just goes to show.

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  13. What a horrible thing to experience. It so undermines one's faith in human nature to think that these creeps are always lurking about just waiting for their opportunity. The only thing to do is to become over protective of one's stuff, which can be tiring and look OTT. At least you got your papers back.

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    1. Yep, the real world is a nasty place full of types trying to take advantage. :(

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  14. I am so sorry that it happened to you. I am absolutely careless here in Toronto but when I visit Moscow...I keep holding my purse right at my chest:)

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I hope that the upcoming year only brings you pleasant surprises.

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    1. Thank you Olga, here's wishing you a Happy New Year too, hope it's a good 'un. :)

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  15. Adopting a Poirot approach :

    It was either a female or a very convincing transvestite.

    Does that help ?

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    1. Hmmm, I think you're right...

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