Stop thief! Avoiding crime while traveling

People should try to keep a close eye on their belongings while in crowds. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Colleen Wieman)

People should try to keep a close eye on their belongings while in crowds. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Colleen Wieman)

Aviano Air Base, Italy -- Crime can happen anytime anywhere and becoming a victim can be a quick way to ruin an enjoyable trip.

"Around Aviano, we don't see that many pickpockets," said Special Agent Matt Brigham, Air Force Office of Special Investigations Det. 531. "There are more pickpockets at tourist destinations. They often operate in groups and could be somebody who doesn't fit the typical stereotype."

Agent Brigham said when going somewhere, always double-up or go with a group of people and blend in as much as possible. He recommended not wearing anything with American logos, such as college shirts.

"Another way to blend in and avoid a potential vehicle break-in is to use cover plates instead of AFI plates,' Agent Brigham said. "The AFI plates say that you are an American and you may have something to take. Although the plates may not fit, when you leave the local area, Italians may think it's an Italian car and might leave the car alone."

Agent Brigham said people should park in well-lit areas or, preferably, a parking garage because the garage has security cameras. They also should not leave anything of value in the car.

While staying at a hotel, Agent Brigham advised not to disclose travel plans to hotel staff or ask for recommendations for activities in the area.

"You don't want the hotel staff to know if you are going to be out of your room for five hours," he said.

While at the hotel, he advised not to leave anything of value in the room, and for those who have to leave important documents, they should place them in the room safe.

"Occasionally we get notified of passports being stolen. You should make copies of your passport and IDs in case they get lost or stolen," Agent Brigham said. "Keeping a copy on you and placing a copy in your suitcase also helps with recovering lost luggage."
When out at a resturaunt or club, Agent Brigham said people should keep a keen eye on their belongings.

"I have noticed that a lot of ladies hang their purses off the back of their chair. To thieves, that purse is game," he said. "Any important documents you don't need, you should leave at home, and put your purse on the front of your chair so you can feel it's still there when you lean against it."

For men, Agent Brigham recommends moving wallets from the back pocket to the front.
Some countries may be a little more dangerous for travelers and Agent Brigham recommends visiting http://www.travel.state.gov before making a trip to a potentially hostile country.

"People can find specific information on whatever country they may be traveling to on that Web site," he said.

Travelers who are concerned about the potential threats posed to Americans in specific countries can always contact OSI and schedule a threat briefing. OSI can be reached at Ext. 7716.