When I was young, traveling with my mother through Europe we were robbed. It wasn't a violent robbery, but it was a robbery and it ruined our trip. We were driving through Europe from Switzerland, through France and Italy. At this point most of our trip was behind us. We'd been in Switzerland and France and some of Italy. This fateful day we were in Florence and were heading south to Rome that afternoon. We packed up the car with our bags because we had to. We had to check out of the hotel and it was just easier to leave from the city rather than go back to the hotel. (We were Sheraton Club members, and would normally stay at Sheratons when possible. The only issue was most Sheratons were a little out of the way, so it wasn't always convenient.) (I digress.)
We made the decision to keep the bags with us in our hatchback car.
We went to one of the piazzas and thought we were so lucky because we found a parking space right near the center of all the action. We thought it would be a safe place to park since there were so many people around. Nobody would try to break into our car there!!!
God only knows how they managed it, but they went into the car and took everything...our cameras, film we'd taken already, our bags, all our clothes, etc. We had all the money, passports, plane tickets with us, but everything else was there. WE tried to hide things as much as possible and I am positive the car was locked, because I checked it before going. The glass was not broken , the door was not forced, there was no sign of entry and they were kind enough to lock up the car for us when they finished, because all the doors were locked.
While at the police station we met several other victims. Although we were upset about losing our things, thank goodness we did not go through a scary moment as a result.
These other people were different. A couple had been held up with a knife...they had to turn over their fanny pack with their money, passports, etc. Another had been pick-pocketed. She had her camera in a backpack and had it on her back. She was getting on a metro (with her husband) all of a sudden she heard a big commotion and people started going around her as if trying to rush to the train before it left. They bumped into her a bit, and then decided not to ride the train and got off.
Obviously, it was all an act to distract her so they could get into her backpack and take whatever they could find.
This was 20 years ago and apparently things aren't much better these days...however, at least in London they are trying to help tourists not become victims. They have brochures printed warning tourists to guard themselves against pick-pockets. While I was at Buckingham Palace waiting to see the changing of the guards, police officers went be the crowd several times and warned tourists to be aware.
Some of the tips were:
Wear your backpack in front of your chest, not on your back
Close backpacks and purses completely
Don't put any wallets or valuables in back pockets, put them in front pockets so you can see if anything is being attempted
Don't let anyone touch you or get too close to you
Don't let anyone see where you keep your money
If you carry a purse, use one that you can strap across your chest
Keep money and credit cards in a money belt around your waist or neck. If you must keep something in your pocket, make sure it is a tight-fitting pocket that closes well.
Don't lose contact with your luggage at the airport or while you're traveling to or from your hotel. The more bags you carry, the easier it will be for a pickpocket to target one of them, so don't give them the opportunity
Keep your wallet, camera or other valuables at the bottom of your backpack if you are carrying one. If a pickpocket opens your bag, he or she will have to look around to find anything of value.
Sleep with valuables under your pillow on trains or in hostels, especially if you are sharing the space with a stranger
Place the strap of a purse or backpack under your chair leg to deter pickpockets while you are seated at a restaurant or elsewhere.
Don't ever leave a bag hanging on back of your chair
Leave anything you don't need on you locked in the hotel safe.
Take only one credit card and a small amount of cash for the day. Carry traveler's checks if possible instead of cas,
Carry only a photocopy of the first page of your passport rather than the real thing
Maintain extreme caution in highly crowded areas, including public transportation and elevators or escalators. Hold your possessions in your hands to ensure no one has access to them.