With the Argentine flowery Spring, the new university semester has also started. As a introduction to the studies and city, Kulturstudier arranged an information meeting for the students with an Argentine asado, musicians and tango dancers. One of the topics of the evening, was pickpocketing.
Buenos Aires is not an unsafe and violent city, and by far like many heavy armed Brazilian cities. Actually Argentina is one of the safest countries for travelers in Latin America. If you first get something stolen, the statistics show that cell phone robbery is the most common crime in Buenos Aires, according to the city’s Security Ministry. The hip and popular neighborhood of Palermo is where most phones are getting stolen. Keep in mind that this neighborhood also is the neighborhood with the most nightclubs and bars, and thieves know that is relatively easy to steel mobile phones from drunk people on a crowded dance floor. Take also into account that all electronic devices are more expensive in Argentina than in Scandinavian countries and the rest of Europe, and all Apple products are sold in retailers for the double as back home. If you are unlucky and it happens, you should never, never fight a thief. As a foreigner you have insurance, and the insurance will pay for your new phone. A starter is to transfer your photos from your phone to your storage device.
Here comes a list of different ways used to steel phones, and if you take a few precautions the risk of getting robbed will drastically drop. This is not for you to get scared, but to learn how to be careful. Bare in mind that thieves always go for the easiest targets to rob and as a foreigner you stick out looking different. If you are talking loud in Norwegian among a group on the street, it is also pretty obvious that you are tourist (with money). And do not carry all your visa cards, driving license, and the home address beside your keys when you are going for a stroll.
- The bird shit method
Walking on the street all of a sudden you have a dirty liquid on your back, arm or shoulder. It might even smell weird. You stop, and there comes a friendly pedestrian pointing at the sky saying «pajaros», meaning birds. The person will find tissues in he’s bag to help you get the «bird shit» off. They distract you with the sudden mess on your clothes, and meanwhile others steel your phone or bag. The perp can also accidentally loose tomato sauce or chocolate milk on you and afterwards offer to help. Well, if you get something wet on you, just keep walking and do not stop to talk to strangers approaching.
- The motochorros grab
Many phone and handbag robberies happened when people on sidewalks have their phone in their hands and a so-called motochorro, a motorbike thief, grabs the phone from the motorbike and continue. Keep your phone hidden when you do not use it and hold the phone on the building side of your body when talking. Wear the handbag across your body so the chorros can not wrench it off your arm.
- The bus window jump
Be aware of sitting beside open windows on buses or in the subway. When stopping on a station, the thief can easily grab the phone through the window, by jumping up from the street and or running out of the vehicle. Public transports are crowed places, so choose to either sit in a seat more protected, use two hands when holding your phone and be vigilant.
- Running off with purse on restaurant
Though it is common to leave your purse or bag on its own chair in Scandinavia, this is not to be done here. Always keep you purse close. You can even twin one of the backpack straps around your leg on the floor. When you are using your lap top on a cafe, never sit outside where it is easy to run and steal it, and do not pick the table closest to the door inside. When going to the toilet, do not leave your lap top alone.
- Magian’s at markets
Thieves always like to operate in crowded places where you are distracted. That might be in one of the beautiful weekend markets or in big parades. In Buenos Aires you will see a lot of people, especially on public transport and in the subways having their backpacks on the front of their bodies instead of their backs to avoid getting stolen from. You can also keep your hand near the zipper of your purse. Carrying your wallet or phone in the back pocket of your pants is a no-no.
Luckily it is not very common with muggings, but it does happen that victims get threatened by violence. This might happen when walking alone at night in quiet areas with the thief approaching and showing you that he has a knife. To avoid this, take a taxi or uber home after going out clubbing. If you are walking late at night, take the avenues and not the small streets. Do not wear clothes making you look rich or expensive jewelry. Gold is specially flashy and can be quite a statement. Do not talk to strangers in the street, and keep walking.
At last, locals know how to be streetwise. Learn of them and enjoy the city! 🙂