As Paris endures what’s expected to be its busiest summer in several years, tourists are being warned to stay vigilant for the emerging form of pick-pockets who are now being dubbed ‘hotel rats’.
The new form of theft in Paris is showcasing the lengths thieves will go to when attempting to snatch tourists’ belongings.
The hotel rats blend into their surroundings either on the streets or in hotel lobbies. After making sure they are going unnoticed they will then take the opportunity to swipe luggage, loose bags or any other valuables.
Some will even go to the extent of mingling with groups of chatting tourists to become a distraction while other members of the theft group will swipe important items without the owner feeling anything.
Other thieves are known for booking hotel rooms under fake names and searching other rooms for safes or loose valuables.
The commissioner of the French capital’s anti-scam police unit, Tony Mariet, said these people could no longer be considered petty thieves but rather international professional criminals.
Mariet said the crime was not exclusive to the busy hub of Paris: “They go to hotel complexes in Paris but also in suburbs around the city like Courbevoie or Vincennes, where there are also tourists.”
He also noted that the thieves work in large teams with their raids lasting a few months in Paris before they move onto the next big tourist destination, such as Rome.
Surprisingly, high-end hotels are more susceptible to the robberies than hotels with less security and surveillance. Criminals keep watch of the usual cliental that attend lavish hotels as these travellers are more likely to be carrying expensive valuables with them.
Tourists tend to let down their guard in the comfort of their hotel lobby as there has always been a strong sense of safety. However, this feeling of security has now been violated by the brazen thieves.
In preparation for the heightened risk of theft, Parisian police will deploy an extra 5,000 officers on the streets of Paris to deter crime. The additional officers will stay until September to cover the peak months for tourism.
They plan to cover seven key tourist sites across the city including the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and the Louvre.
Last year alone, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica of Montmartre attracted 10 million visitors and was the second highest tourist attraction in the city behind the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris.
Following the terror attacks in 2015 and 2016, the popular holiday destination went through a major slump in tourist numbers. However, last year they saw a ten year high with the top 15 cultural attractions welcoming 70.2 million visitors in total.
For more information, check the Prefecture de Police official website where they provide important insight on how to safely visit Paris and where to take extra caution.