Italy's 'Attenzione pickpocket!' volunteers just want tourists to be safe


Tourists are always distracted, especially in crowded areas like the Trevi Fountain in Rome, making them easy targets of pickpockets. — Pixabay

"Attenzione! Attenzione pickpocket!”

If you spend time on social media daily, you would have probably come across a video or two featuring a woman or a man shouting these words. While there’s probably no need to translate what the Italian phrase means – “attention, pickpockets” – here’s some clarity on the video content.

The “trend” began with a TikTok clip of a woman walking through a crowd of tourists in Venice, Italy, loudly proclaiming “attenzione borseggiatrici! Attenzione pickpocket!” (borseggiatrici means pickpocket in Italian), while focusing on a group of women, who then scampered off upon hearing her. This made it seem like those women were up to no good, especially since they quickly covered their faces with whatever item they had – bag, scarf, hat or umbrella.

Others in the crowd seemed confused and just stood in place, indicating that they could have been the possible pickpocketing victims.

The original video was posted about a month ago by an account called Cittadini Non Distratti, which means “citizens not distracted” in Italian. According to reports, the original account has since been suspended but a new one was later created. You can also find the account on Instagram with the same handle (@cittadininondistratti).

There are now over 60 posts on Instagram, all featuring videos of supposed, or alleged, pickpockets in various places in Venice, including on trains and train stations, tourist attractions and crowded streets. The poster herself has never shown her face on camera.

According to a report on Newsweek, the woman who filmed these videos is “Monica”, who is said to be part of a group of activists and volunteers that are working together to stop pickpockets from doing their business in popular tourist destinations for decades.

In the interview, she was quoted as saying, “I have been part of a group of ‘disturbance against pickpockets’ for 30 years – together with 40 other people.”

Monica also said that the group started doing this “work” because there have been so many victims, usually tourists, who have lost valuables and important documents like their passports to thieves.

“This incurs additional expenses for them, so it is better to prevent this by warning tourists of the problem,” Monica was quoted in the report.

There are other accounts with similar videos, but in different parts of Italy. Milano BellaDaDio (@milanobelladadio), for example, wants to show the “beautiful and ugly of Milan”. This account partners with content creator Lazza Ramo (@lazzaramo), who also focuses on incidents in Milan. Their videos seem to show that they are sometimes more aggressive in their encounters, confronting the “accused” head on.

They have managed to foil numerous pickpocket attempts, too, but as a result, some of these alleged thieves have begun to retaliate, as evidenced from a few new videos.

If you’re planning to visit any of the major European tourist cities, be sure to stay vigilant and always keep your belongings very close to you.

Pickpockets are usually casually dressed, and will most likely carry a big bag and a folded jacket, coat or shawl on one arm, says Ramo in a few videos.

So, if you hear anyone shouting, “attenzione pickpocket, attenzione borseggiatrici!”, immediately place your bag in front of you and hold on to it tightly.

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