How to avoid trouble in the Moscow metro

Robbers on the metro normally operate concisely and they have their own places of work – stations with a large number of passengers. Source: PhotoXpress

Robbers on the metro normally operate concisely and they have their own places of work – stations with a large number of passengers. Source: PhotoXpress

The Moscow metro is relatively safe, but pickpockets, thieves and drunken travellers can spoil an unwary passenger’s mood. Anyone can avoid incidents like these however by following some simple rules.

The Criminal 

According to statistics from the Directorate of Internal Affairs, 290 robberies took place on the Moscow metro over the course of the first 10 months of 2013. Only 182 of these were solved.

For a snatcher the most important thing is surprise: so he (or she) can grab a bag, mobile phone or tablet in the last second before the door closes, jump out of the train and get away. Experts advise to not stand close to the doors, sit in the middle of the carriage and hold onto belongings when the doors are open and never fall asleep under any circumstances. Furthermore with the advent of video cameras life has become much more complicated for a snatcher on the metro.

“I got into the train and all of a sudden some people started to surround me and block my way,” says Lena Shakespeare – a teacher at an International School in Moscow. “I couldn’t understand what was going on and only when I jumped out at the next station did I notice that my bag was open. I was lucky though, I still had everything with me.”

Robbers on the metro normally operate concisely and they have their own places of work – stations with a large number of passengers. Pickpockets work in pairs, transferring the loot between themselves and it is very difficult to catch them with the loot in their possession.

“Never carry wallets and mobile phones in breast or back pockets’ says Sergey Pyatenko. “Hold handbags or rucksacks in your hands in front of you. Moscow pickpockets are virtuosos, they have a knack of stealing a notebook and replacing it with a book, which weighs the same.”

It is difficult to pick out a thief in a crowd: they are dressed normally and they could be 15 or 70 years old, women are also found amongst them.  Be particularly aware at metro stations close to mainline stations: ‘Komsomolskaya’, ‘Kurskaya’, ‘Paveletskaya’, ‘Belorusskaya’, ‘Kievskaya’, and at large junction stations such as ‘Biblioteka im. Lenina’ and at terminus stations.

“Pickpockets usually operate during the rush-hour, when it is quite difficult to track and arrest them,” says the Deputy Chief of Police on the Moscow metro Aleksandr Lipatov.

Unpleasant encounters

Ian Bird, the Director of an International School in Moscow considers that “Drunks are a serious problem. When we train our staff we encourage them to walk away from a conflict arising from any misunderstanding, especially when it is obvious that the person has been drinking. A foreign language itself can give rise to aggression.” If you notice a drunk, don’t attract their attention say the experts, and if you are in contact with them don’t voice your disapproval.  “Think about what you wear in Moscow,” emphasised Lena Shakespeare. “If someone looks like a tourist they are more likely to attract the attention of criminals.” Don’t forget it is not worth sitting in an empty carriage: you could find yourself in company that you don’t want to mix with.

Who can help?

Moscow metro staff members are on hand at every station as well as duty police officers, whom you can turn to if anything untoward happens. In terms of response, police on the Moscow metro have become more responsive, however bureaucratic procedures could take several hours. Don’t forget  that the police don’t have interpreters. ‘Learn Russian’ is Elena Shakespeare’s final advice “It’s only the young people that can speak English.”

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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