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Crime on Camino

Camino(s) past & future
Francé 2005; 2016
Inglés June 2017
del Salvador Sep 2018
Primitivo Oct 2018
#1
Is it me or what? Are incdents of crime against pilgrims increasing? I'm not as well read or knowledgable as most on this forum, or as our moderators, but I just wonder if I'm reading and hearing more about this? Perhaps social media and our forum, technology, is enabling us to report, quickly and in detail, every incident more efficiently (and rightly so). I suspect 'minor' incidents go unreported.

I was born in London and lived there from time to time, and my father was in the Met. I don't regard going on Camino as dangerous or threatening - there are far more dangerous places to visit or things to do, and I simply take the same precautions as I would on any sort of holiday or activity, or in any city. But I know that every incident is disturbing to those effected, no matter where they are or what they're doing, or the crime against them.

Pilgrims have been exposed to crime and danger since pilgrimages began. It's nothing new. But is anyone compiling modern statistics, any organisation or government body, perhaps? Are there crime 'hotspots' on Camino, or particular patterns and types of crime? Are there ever threats of serious injury or even death? Is anyone interested in such a database? During and since my recent Camino, a lot more incidents have been reported than I can ever remember before.

No matter what, I'll still go on Camino, as will the majority on this forum, I'm sure. But is better informed better prepared and aware? Would an accessible data base prepare and make aware, even help to deal with crime and protect pilgrims?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
#2
The way we behave and think on the camino makes us somewhat vulnerable to criminals. We spend weeks or months sharing accommodation with fellow travellers, carrying items of significant value with little security, moving through unfamiliar places, and being unsuspicious of new faces among us. Some of these things are "essential," to our experience of the camino. But to people with bad intentions, they are precisely the things that make us look awfully like a migrating herd of "easy marks."
That's why it isn't enough to take the same precautions that we would on a typical city break or business trip. We need to think a little differently about risk avoidance (e.g. Routines to ensure that your valuables are on your person at all times - when you walk, shower, sleep, etc.) and recovery (e.g. Knowing how to contact police, camino associations, trusted friends or family).
 
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Camino(s) past & future
2015-2016 VdlPlata - Sanabres
2016.Primitivo
2017 Salvador
2018 Norte?
#3
Allthough I realise that I, just like anyone, might be a victim of criminal acts I feel that thinking too much about these possibilities for me is a too high price to pay. I fear that it leads to seeing others as possible thread. In many ways the life on a Camino is based on trust, and I would not like that that is being affected.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#4
The easy access to information these days is a double-edged sword. I have no idea if crimes on the Camino are increasing along with the numbers walking or not - but it is certainly true that we hear about them more quickly and frequently than a few years ago. Is that a positive thing? - "forewarned is forearmed" or a cause of anxiety out of proportion to the actual risk? A difficult judgment. I am a moderator for a couple of Facebook groups to do with the Caminos. When I see news items which I feel are relevant then I post them for others to see. This year that has included news of the deaths of a number of pilgrims. I have recently begun to wonder if doing so is creating an exaggerated perception of the risks involved in walking the Caminos. On discussing the question privately with my fellow moderators we reached the conclusion that it was right to mark these deaths publicly - to allow those who wished to do so to pray for the dead and their families and to honour a fellow pilgrim lost. I think that a similar approach is probably right when reporting stories of crimes committed on the Caminos. I hope we do not lose our sense of proportion when reading them though.
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
#5
I crossed the London Bridge on June 3, 2017 ten minutes before the terrorists began ramming pedestrians. As awful as the attack was, I and over 8 million others in London were not personally harmed. Crime on the Camino is like that; it is too random to worry about. There probably is an upswing, but I would bet that more crime occurs daily in the Madrid train station than annually on the Camino. Remember, Willy Sutton robbed banks because that is where the money was. Pilgrims can be targets, so do the things that minimize YOU as a target: put money and cards in several places, be aware, trust but verify, walk near others, if your instinct says "beware", be wary.
 

nathanael

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via de la Plata
#6
I crossed the London Bridge on June 3, 2017 ten minutes before the terrorists began ramming pedestrians. As awful as the attack was, I and over 8 million others in London were not personally harmed. Crime on the Camino is like that; it is too random to worry about. There probably is an upswing, but I would bet that more crime occurs daily in the Madrid train station than annually on the Camino. Remember, Willy Sutton robbed banks because that is where the money was. Pilgrims can be targets, so do the things that minimize YOU as a target: put money and cards in several places, be aware, trust but verify, walk near others, if your instinct says "beware", be wary.
I have been to Spain 14 times and although have seen police with machine guys at Atocha station in Madrid I have always felt safe. I feel safe in Madrid and in my 10 Caminos never have had problems. Even though I walk alone. The only place I will not walk alone is on a lonely stretch not far from Santiago. I will not name the place but it's lonely and dark and I usually ask people if I can tag on until it gets lighter.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#7
I personally like being informed of the deaths and crimes of all sorts that happen on the camino. It reminds us that we should not be too naive and unaware of the possibility of these incidents. That said, when I do hear of them I remind myself that they are just a handful, so to speak, of the 200,000+ who walk caminos each year, which puts it all in perspective. If you take a city of that size, death and crimes are a hundredfold each year compared to walking our beloved routes.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked in "2016"
#8
I crossed the London Bridge on June 3, 2017 ten minutes before the terrorists began ramming pedestrians. As awful as the attack was, I and over 8 million others in London were not personally harmed. Crime on the Camino is like that; it is too random to worry about. There probably is an upswing, but I would bet that more crime occurs daily in the Madrid train station than annually on the Camino. Remember, Willy Sutton robbed banks because that is where the money was. Pilgrims can be targets, so do the things that minimize YOU as a target: put money and cards in several places, be aware, trust but verify, walk near others, if your instinct says "beware", be wary.
While I agree with the overall essence of your message, your reference to the "Madrid train station," is vague and hasty as a reference point. First of all, which train station are your referring to? Is is Atocha or Chamartin? I have traveled through both train stations scores of times over several years and haven't had any problem crime wise. Conversely, I was pick pocketed once at the Charing Cross in London. Moral of the story: crime could happen anywhere, even in the most unexpected places.
 

jl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
#9
I am one of those pilgrims who take great joy in exploring roads less travelled, often for a long time and over a long distance. I often find myself alone for days, weeks and sometimes months on end, sometimes travelling through small villages, and sometimes through remote countryside with the only civilisation being at the beginning and end of the day. One of the most frequent questions I am asked along those roads, and on my return, is - aren't you, or have you ever, felt afraid?. Having walked in excess of 16,000kms since my first Camino in 2005 and in all weathers I can honestly say - no! I always respond with another query - what is there to be afraid of? Yes there are people who behave badly, but I have been blessed in not having met them on my journeys. I expect people to behave as I do, with honesty, respect, and courtesy, though if they don't I don't let that spoil my day - it is their problem not mine. I would say that almost without exception the people I have met along my journeys behave with kindness and generosity, and extend the hand of friendship.

Although I have lost a pair of socks, through carelessness, I have never had anything stolen. That said, I am not silly. I don't walk with music blaring in my ears, preferring to listen to the sounds around me, and to keep alert. I am always aware of who is around me, and when going through big places like Rome, Barcelona, London etc I zip my shoulder bag up. I only charge my devices when I am in a room on my own, and my shoulder bag, in which I carry my passport, never comes off until I am in bed (and goes to bed with me). This minimises risk, and I then don't stress.

I really believe that the pilgrim motto of "expect nothing and be grateful for everything" affects the way that people see you and their response to you. Though I am, sadly, only an English speaker, a smile and a greeting to people as you pass by helps convey that attitude. A smile is a universal language, along with a bit of help from google when the going gets tough!
 

Iriebabel

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April (2018)
? route TBD for April (2019)
#10
Don’t be afraid ....just be prepared!

I agree with @Camino Chris I like being informed of deaths and crimes on the camino. Anything can happen at anytime and in any place. Being on the camino is no different than walking down a street at home. From your front door to halfway around the world things will happen but it is how you prepare and having realistic expectations that make a difference. Protect your belongings and don’t take any unnecessary risks. Program emergency into your phone, get travel insurance, travel with others in sight or at least at a measured distance, carry a whistle and expect the unexpected.

For the most part the Camino is safe. But traveling with a laise faire atttitude towards safety and not being aware of one’s surroundings can have unexpected consequences. We do not need to be overly suspicious or unusually paranoid but we should all maintain a healthy dose of the what ifs’....
 
Camino(s) past & future
planning Primitivo (April to May, 2019)
#11
I'm new on this forum, but I am not new to maintaining a situational awareness. I read these posts with interest. I really wish that everyone who reports "I was pick pocketed," or "I was ripped off," would provide some detail as to what exactly happened and what could have prevented it. I read a recent post where someone reported being pickpocketed by "professionals" who got to an "inside pocket." It would be nice to know more. Nathanael in this thread wrote about a dark and scary stretch of the Frances near Santiago, but will not provide details.

It's the unknown that scares people. If people could tell us more, then we could collectively learn from others' misfortune. Some unfortunate events can be prevented. Maybe misfortune can be turned into collective wisdom. But by not telling, all we are left with is a statistic and the unknown. This could create a feeling of dread for some people.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
2035 km of the way to Saint James in Galicia done.
#13
Is it me or what? Are incidents of crime against pilgrims increasing? I'm not as well read or knowledgable as most on this forum, or as our moderators, but I just wonder if I'm reading and hearing more about this? Perhaps social media and our forum, technology, is enabling us to report, quickly and in detail, every incident more efficiently (and rightly so).
It's of course difficult to tell but I think it's social media and in particular the near ubiquitous access to the internet thanks to mobile devices and how quickly messages spread from one online place to the next. For example, I don't think I've ever read as many posts about people having lost an item on a Camino as this year.

Or another aspect, more directly related to your post: nearly every newspaper has now an online presence, so again information about crime in Camino related areas is picked up and spreads very quickly. Also, the number of pilgrims/tourists has increased considerably during the last years so it's not surprising that there are more cases reported, in particular in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Leon etc. A major multiplier of such info are Facebook groups of which there are now quite a few with a Camino focus.

There was some forum talk about building a database for Camino related sexual assault incidents and similar incidents some time ago. Nothing came of it. I guess it would be next to impossible to develop a method for collecting such data.
 
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Morgan Holmes

Every day is a path to walk.
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Santiago from SJPDP (2014); Fromistá to Santiago (2018).
#15
Increases in incidence do not necessarily correspond to problems of prevalence. We cannot know for sure whether actual probabilities are up unless we know how the incidences correspond to increases in number of pilgrims along particular routes.

I'm still quite comfortable with the general rate of the present camino compared to the camino of the 12-15th centuries.

For your own protection:

1. Divide your money across several stash-points on your person. Have a "wallet" you can afford to hand over if it should come to it, but keep other money in other spots.

2. Keep photos of your travel documents on your phone, and send copies to your next-of-kin. If you lose everything, your next-of can send the images to your embassy to help facilitate the cancelation of lost passports etc., and to help with their replacement.

3. I sleep with my passport, phone, and documents inside my sleep sac.

4. Take your important things to the shower with you in a dry sac.

5. Do not engage strangers in conversation in the tourist areas. I saw a man from Rome lose his Camera in Barcelona because he let his guard down as a tourist in a way he never would have at home in a tourist city. He stopped to give directions to a group of young men and they simply cut his camera straps and took off.

6. As a woman, I do not walk with random locals (men... it's always men) who have tried to take up beside me on camino.

Camino is one of the safest challenges I can think of taking on, and yet every pilgrim I know personally has endured at least injury or illness while on the way. It is still incredibly low-risk.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Planning Italy to Finisterre and back (20xx)
#16
I prefer scan my documents, make a .pdf and send it to my email account, so I can have them available anywhere and ready to be printed. Paper copies have a weight and can be lost or damaged, smartphones are a target for thieves and can break and be lost. Online mail account are safer. I don't use Google services like Gmail or Drive because for security reason they might require extra steps to access them from a different than usual device.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francé 2005; 2016
Inglés June 2017
del Salvador Sep 2018
Primitivo Oct 2018
#17
It's of course difficult to tell but I think it's social media and in particular the near ubiquitous access to the internet thanks to mobile devices and how quickly messages spread from one online place to the next. For example, I don't think I've ever read as many posts about people having lost an item on a Camino as this year.

Or another aspect, more directly related to your post: nearly every newspaper has now an online presence, so again information about crime in Camino related areas is picked up and spreads very quickly. Also, the number of pilgrims/tourists has increased considerably during the last years so it's not surprising that there are more cases reported, in particular in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Leon etc. A major multiplier of such info are Facebook groups of which there are now quite a few with a Camino focus.

There was some forum talk about building a database for Camino related sexual assault incidents and similar incidents some time ago. Nothing came of it. I guess it would be next to impossible to develop a method for collecting such data.
Like you suggest, social media has changed things a great deal, information flows like a river. You're right about the sexual assault incidents - I don't understand why this isn't at least recorded and collated for womens safety. Social media would be essential for working with such a data base, quick and effective.
Keith
 

Morgan Holmes

Every day is a path to walk.
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Santiago from SJPDP (2014); Fromistá to Santiago (2018).
#18
I prefer scan my documents, make a .pdf and send it to my email account, so I can have them available anywhere and ready to be printed. Paper copies have a weight and can be lost or damaged, smartphones are a target for thieves and can break and be lost. Online mail account are safer. I don't use Google services like Gmail or Drive because for security reason they might require extra steps to access them from a different than usual device.

All very good ideas. Of course, if like many of us, we are carrying our email accounts on our phones (I do because work is always attached to me one way or another), ultimately anything could be accessed. I have pretty strong encryption, including dual authentication requirements, to block access to my hardware as the primary method for protecting my documents.

Anything can be stolen. When my father died while on holiday, his passport and other documents went missing when his body was found in his hotel. It took us 12 weeks to repatriate his remains because of the theft of his passport, driver's license and social insurance number.

Anyway, point being -- hard copies, PDF's, which email account.... it's all vulnerable somehow. But if dad had had a cell phone (it was 1999 so he didn't) or a computer with copies of his documents, getting his body home would have been easier. Instead we had to involve diplomats and the RCMP.

Scan or photo makes no difference in digital terms. Either can be saved as a PDF -- for those who may be less technically aware about what can and can't be rendered as a printable document format.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Planning Italy to Finisterre and back (20xx)
#19
All very good ideas. Of course, if like many of us, we are carrying our email accounts on our phones (I do because work is always attached to me one way or another), ultimately anything could be accessed. I have pretty strong encryption, including dual authentication requirements, to block access to my hardware as the primary method for protecting my documents.

Anything can be stolen. When my father died while on holiday, his passport and other documents went missing when his body was found in his hotel. It took us 12 weeks to repatriate his remains because of the theft of his passport, driver's license and social insurance number.

Anyway, point being -- hard copies, PDF's, which email account.... it's all vulnerable somehow. But if dad had had a cell phone (it was 1999 so he didn't) or a computer with copies of his documents, getting his body home would have been easier. Instead we had to involve diplomats and the RCMP.

Scan or photo makes no difference in digital terms. Either can be saved as a PDF -- for those who may be less technically aware about what can and can't be rendered as a printable document format.
I agree, I was only considering petty crimes that may happen on a journey rather than identity theft.

Common pickpocketers and robbers will be more interested in what can be sold quickly like a phone, a ring, cash, a tablet and things that can't be proven beyond doubt as stolen on a random stop and search. I don't think they want to be found with documents which are not their own. The ones who hunt for documents (hard copies or digital) are usually part of organized crime.

So, for me having one file with all my documents somewhere on the net (encrypted) which I can access regardless of the device I use is easier, especially because if my phone will be stolen it will be formatted remotely.
 

gerip

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2018
#20
Just don’t leave anything in those lockers provided by the alburges. They’re just to keep the sleeping bags out of the way, not to keep anything safe. An Australian man had all his documents and cash stolen at Roncesvalles two days ago, out of one of those lockers. I overheard him describing all the steps he now has to take, police, embassy, .....
 

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