Italy has a moderate rate of crime. You should exercise extra caution at night and at train stations, airports, nightclubs, bars, and outdoor cafes. If you are drinking heavily, your ability to judge situations and make decisions may be impaired, making you a target for crime. Young drinkers are particularly vulnerable to robbery and physical and sexual assault.
Petty crimes such as pick-pocketing, theft from parked cars, and purse snatching are serious problems, especially in large cities. Pick-pockets sometimes dress like businessmen. You should not be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that well-dressed individuals are not potential pick-pockets or thieves. Most reported thefts occur at crowded tourist sites, on public buses and trains, and at the major railway stations: Rome's Termini; Milan's Centrale; Florence's Santa Maria Novella; and Naples's Centrale at Piazza Garibaldi. For more information on trains and security, please see the Italian railway police’s advice for travelers. You should also be alert to theft in Milan’s Malpensa Airport, particularly at car rental agencies. Clients of Internet cafes in major cities are also targeted. Be careful with your bag or purse, as thieves on motor scooters are very quick and can snatch a purse off of your arm from a moving scooter. Resisting these thieves can be hazardous, as some tourists have suffered broken arms and collarbones.
Thieves in Italy often work in groups or pairs. Pairs of accomplices or groups of children are known to divert tourists' attention so that another can pick-pocket them. In one particular routine, one thief drops or spills something on the victim; a second thief assists the victim in cleaning up the mess; and the third discreetly takes the victim's belongings. Criminals on crowded public transportation slit the bottoms of purses or bags with a razor blade or sharp knife removing the contents.
Some travelers in Rome, Florence, and Naples have reported incidents where criminals used drugs to assault or rob them. These incidents have been reported near Rome’s Termini train station; at bars and cafes near Rome’s Colosseum, Colle Oppio, Campo de Fiori, and Piazza Navona; and at bars and cafes in the center of Florence and Naples. Criminals using this tactic “befriend” you at a train station, restaurant, café, or bar, and then offer you a drink laced with a sleeping drug. When you fall asleep, criminals steal your valuables and may sexually assault you. Some victims of these assaults in Rome have required hospitalization and two cases resulted in death.
Thieves are also known to have impersonated police officers in order to steal. The thief shows you a circular plastic sign with the words "police" or “international police" and then in perfect English asks to see your identification and your money. U.S. citizens should be aware that local police will generally exit their own vehicle when speaking with members of the public. Also, plainclothes undercover units rarely attempt to pull over vehicles without a marked car accompanying them. If this happens to you, you should insist on seeing the officer's identification card (documento) before handing over your wallet as impersonators tend not to carry forged documents. You should immediately report thefts or other crimes to the actual police.
Be alert to the possibility of carjackings and thefts while you are waiting in traffic or stopped at traffic lights. This has been a particular problem in Catania, Sicily. Use particular caution driving at night on highways, when thieves are more likely to strike. U.S. citizens have reported break-ins of their rental cars during stops at highway service areas; thieves smash car windows and steal everything inside. Theft of small items such as radios, luggage, cameras, briefcases, and even cigarettes from parked cars is prevalent. Vehicles parked near beaches during the summer can be broken into and robbed of valuables. Lock car doors whenever you park, and do not leave packages in your car in plain view.
The U.S. Secret Service in Rome is assisting Italian law enforcement authorities in investigating an increase in the appearance of ATM skimming devices. These devices are attached to legitimate bank ATMs, usually located in tourist areas, and capture the account information stored electronically on the card’s magnetic strip. The devices consist of a card reader installed over the legitimate reader and a pin-hole video camera mounted above the keypad that records the customer’s PIN. ATMs with skimming devices installed may also allow normal transactions to occur. The victim’s information is sold, traded on-line, or encoded on another card, such as a hotel key card, to access the compromised account.
Organized criminal groups operate throughout Italy, but are more prevalent in the south. They occasionally resort to violence to intimidate or to settle disputes. Though the activities of such groups are not generally targeted at tourists, visitors should be aware that innocent bystanders could be injured.
Don’t buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.
According to Italian law, anyone caught buying counterfeit goods (for example, DVDs, CDs, watches, purses, bags, belts, sunglasses, etc.) is subject to a fine of no less than EUR 1,000. Police in major Italian cities enforce this law to varying degrees. You are advised to purchase products only from stores and other licensed retailers to avoid unknowingly buying counterfeit and illegal merchandise.
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