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Crime and the legal system in France

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Is it possible to track down a pickpocket in France? Learn about the French legal system, including the types of crimes that are most often committed in France and the situations in which you should exercise more vigilance.

Security across the board in France

Being aware of one's surroundings and avoiding high-risk regions are two of the most important common-sense safety measures one can take while in France. These will assist to prevent a significant number of difficulties. If you have been the victim of a crime, you should read the contacts and guidance provided by the French government.

Out and about

When going out, be sure to include just the necessary goods, such as ONE credit or ATM card, ONE form of identification, and no more than €40–50 in cash. Avoid carrying valuable jewelry or huge sums of cash with you at all times. It is important to conceal valuables and store them in areas that are difficult for criminals to access, such as the inside pockets of a coat, pouches are worn around the neck, or concealed within one's clothing. The carrying of purses or wallets over one's shoulder or in one's back pocket is an open invitation to thieves.

Separate the originals of your credit cards and travel papers from the photocopies you make of them, and also keep a record of the important phone numbers you'll need to call to replace your credit card.

A heightened state of alertness ought to result from crowded public transportation, including escalators, elevators, and subway carriages. Take a seat or stand against a wall wherever it is feasible to reduce the risk of being pickpocketed and make an effort to keep an awareness of your surroundings in all directions.

Carry only a handbag that can be securely closed with a zipper, and be sure to tuck it under your armpit while bringing it slightly in front of your body. Swing a handbag that is similar to a backpack over your body so that it is somewhat in front of you at all times. When carried on the person, wallets should be placed in the front pocket of the garment. When walking about on foot, you should always be alert to your surroundings and sling your luggage over your body so that they hang away from the road.

When at cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs/bars, particularly higher-end venues, one of the most prevalent tactics for stealing purses or bags is to take them from the back of a chair or from under the table. Other typical hiding spots include the armrest of a chair. Keep in mind that you should never leave your valuables unattended or out of your sight, and you should always have them with you at all times.

Con artists often take the form of law enforcement agents to con people out of their money and identity. To begin, it is important to keep in mind that a legitimate officer of the law would never ask for money.

Inquire about their white card made of plastic with three colors, blue, white, and red, that is diagonally crossed and has marks on both sides. The word "Police" is printed in the middle of the card.

Be aware that criminals often work in gangs and will support one another if they are cornered or attacked. If a thief is seen committing a theft while in the act, the act of pickpocketing might escalate into an assault or something much more serious if an effort is made to apprehend the thief. You may yell for help from the authorities to get their attention, but you should not chase the person who you believe took your wallet or bag.

After dusk, it is best to steer clear of public parks because of the high likelihood of encountering drug dealers and prostitutes there.

When people are drunk and on their way home late at night following a night out, they are more likely to be the victims of theft and other violent crimes. Always go out with a large group of pals if you plan on staying out into the wee hours of the morning. There is more security in large groups.


Avoid using automated teller machines (ATMs) in secluded places, areas with insufficient lighting, or areas with loiterers. Be extra cautious around those who are standing near enough to the machine to see the Personal Identification Number (PIN) being input. Thieves can pull off many successful scams by merely seeing the entry of the PIN on the target's card while it is being used and then snatching the card from the target at another place. If the card becomes stuck in the machine, you are required to promptly report the issue to both your bank as well as the bank that houses the machine.


Some dishonest people will attempt to avoid paying fares by sneaking up behind passengers who already have tickets by following them too closely. You mustn't let anybody pass past the turnstile or gate that is located immediately behind you.

Never purchase tickets from scalpers since they always charge more than face value (up to ten times their value). Instead, utilize the ticket counters or the machines that dispense tickets that are located at the (train, bus, or metro) stations.

It is important to keep an eye on your luggage at all times since criminals often target unsecured bags.

Vehicle theft

You may protect yourself against theft of your car by:

● ensuring that all of the windows in your car are fully shut, as well as locking the doors and the boot or trunk;

● Not leaving important objects in view (mobile phones, cameras, clothing items, bags, etc.).


Never get into a car with a stranger who approaches you on the street or at an airport offering their transportation services. This may be a "bogus/illegal" cab, which is against the law according to the French Labour Code.

The following amenities are standard in all authorized taxis operating in Paris:

● A lighted sign reading "Taxi Parisien" is affixed to the roof,

● A display meter that indicates how much the journey will cost,

● A display that is located at the back of the car and is visible from the outside, and which makes it possible to track the amount of time each day that the vehicle is used,

● A number plate that is affixed to the front fender displays the driver's license number.

In the last year, there has been a rise in the number of claims of sexual harassment and assault committed by drivers against female passengers. Call a friend while you are in the taxi and tell them the license number, or have another person walk with you to the taxi and write down the number while you are in plain view of the driver. Another option for women is to have another person call a friend while they are in the taxi and tell them the number. It is possible to lessen the likelihood of being a victim of a crime by informing the taxi driver that other people are aware of your journey and the license number of the cab.

A leaflet titled "Paris in Complete Safety" is distributed by the Paris Police Prefecture and contains information such as helpful telephone numbers and actionable recommendations for tourists.

Main types of crime and levels by region

The level of danger in France is considered to be average. The vast majority of crimes involve little physical violence, although pickpocketing remains a big issue.

The vast majority of theft-related crimes committed against tourists from other countries include pickpocketing, home break-ins, theft of bicycles, and other kinds of theft involving a low level of physical conflict. Despite this, armed robberies involving physical violence do take place in Paris and other major metropolitan centers. This is the case in any large metropolis. It is important for those who are traveling to crowded regions or well-known tourist destinations (such as museums, monuments, railway stations, airports, or subways) to pay close attention to their surroundings at all times. Crimes committed against tourists are often crimes of opportunity; nevertheless, these crimes are more likely to include violence when they occur on the street late at night or when the victim discovers the theft and opposes the offender. When going out at night alone in a big city, women should take additional precautions to protect themselves and should seriously consider going out with a friend or group of friends instead. In general, cabs in Paris are safe and run by professionals, but there has been a noticeable rise in the number of incidents in which women have reported being harassed or assaulted by taxi drivers.

When driving in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of France, where there is a high frequency of robberies that use "smash and grab" tactics, extreme caution is essential anywhere in the country. Thieves will approach a car that is stopped in traffic, shatter a window, reach inside the vehicle to steal a pocketbook or other expensive object, and then depart the scene. Therefore, ensure that all doors are secured and that valuables are hidden.

Throughout August, the month when most French citizens enjoy summer vacations, and in December, there is often a rise in the number of home break-ins. The vast majority may be traced back to people who did not use the security measures that were already in place, such as securing doors and windows and utilizing multiple locks. Calls made to the victim's phone to check whether they are home are often the first step in the home invasion process. Thieves who have gained entry to an apartment complex may often knock on residents' doors to check if anybody responds, using the pretext that they are conducting a survey or working for a utility company when no one answers the door.

Crime in Paris

The rate of violent and property crime in Paris is comparable to that in most other major cities. The city center has a low rate of violent crime in comparison to the rest of the city; nonetheless, women should exercise additional care when they are out alone at night and should also consider venturing out at night with other people. In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of incidents when taxi drivers have been accused of sexual harassment and even assaulting passengers.

Pickpockets represent the most serious issue by a wide margin. Along with handbags and wallets, special objectives include smartphones and other portable electrical gadgets of a smaller size. Pickpockets in Paris might be of any age, gender, or color; however, since they are difficult to catch and prosecute, the majority of them are minors under the age of 16 years old. On the rail connection (RER B) that connects Charles de Gaulle Airport and the city center, there is a high incidence of pickpocketing. Instead of using the RER, tourists may find it more convenient to use a shuttle service or one of the fast buses to go into the heart of Paris.

In addition, commuters on Metro line 1, which travels through the middle of the city from east to west and serves a great deal of the most popular tourist destinations, are often the targets of criminal activity. It is usual practice for one thief to distract the tourist by asking them questions or causing a ruckus while another thief picks their pockets, rifles through their bag, or goes through their pocketbook. In Paris, cons include offering a ring and asking whether you dropped it, as well as inquiring about your willingness to join a petition or participate in a poll. Pickpocketing attempts on the Metro are often timed to coincide with the shutting of the automatic doors so that the victim is left defenseless inside the moving train once the robbery is complete. There are also a lot of thefts that happen in the large department shops like Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, and Le Bon Marché. This is because visitors often leave their wallets, passports, and credit cards on the cashier counters while they are making their purchases.

Popular tourist destinations are also frequented by criminals, who choose busy places to operate in since it is easier to conceal their movements. The busy elevators at the Eiffel Tower, the escalators at museums, and the area around Sacré Coeur Basilica in Montmartre are all areas where pickpockets and snatch-and-grab burglars like to operate in. Near stations of the Metro that are less often used, there have been a few incidents in which visitors have been robbed and abused. Pigalle, which is located close to the Moulin Rouge, is a location that demands heightened awareness to avoid being a victim. Pigalle is a district in Paris that caters to adults and is noted for its many adult entertainment venues, including prostitution, sex shows, and drug dealing. Unwary travelers have been known to rack up enormous bar bills, which they are then required to pay before being allowed to leave the establishment. Les Halles and the Bois de Boulogne are two other locations in Paris that, after dark, need an increased level of security measures to be taken.

Provence Alpes Maritimes (PACA) / Languedoc-Roussillon (Marseille, Montpellier, Perpignan, Carcassonne Avignon, Aix en Provence, Arles, Cannes, Nice)

The percentage of people who commit violent crimes is very low in the PACA/Languedoc-Roussillon area. Thefts from automobiles, both while they are stopped in traffic and while they are parked, as well as thefts from baggage trolleys at the main transit hubs, are the most typical issues in the area (e.g., Nice Airport, and the railway stations at Marseille, Avignon, and Aix en Provence). From May to June 2011, victims who were citizens of the United States reported to the United States Consulate General in Marseille fifty instances of theft from automobiles and twenty instances of purse snatchings at transit hubs. A rise in the number of burglaries committed in vacation rental homes as well as thefts of necklaces has also been recorded.

Always remember to keep your vehicle doors locked and your windows rolled up, even when you think you're safe. It is best to practice concealing anything of value to foil any efforts at a smash-and-grab. Keep an eye on your vehicle at all times, especially whether you are at a tourist attraction, using the restrooms at a service station, or pausing to take in the panoramic views, even if it's only for a moment since criminals will shatter windows to get to belongings left in vehicles. Cars are being broken into within minutes of their owners leaving them alone, according to victims. It is important to keep passports in a secure location that is separate from other valuables.


The historic district of Strasbourg has a much lower than average incidence of violent crime. The historic quarter of Petite France, which is popular with tourists, is often the target of pickpockets and other types of criminals who engage in the snatch-and-grab activity.


Since 2005, the number of general crimes and offenses committed in this huge metropolis has been on the decrease, leading to the perception that the city is relatively secure. Pickpockets and other crimes directed specifically at tourists are common in large cities like this one, so be aware of your surroundings at all times, particularly while using public transit. On the other hand, local law enforcement is often regarded as being both professional and sympathetic to the needs of those who have been victims of crime. Theft of purses, identification cards, and passports that have been left in automobiles, especially in areas with well-known landmarks, is a common cause for requests for the immediate issuing of passports.


Petty theft and vandalism are quite common problems in Lyon, despite the city's relatively low rate of serious crime. In the middle of the city and in places where there are nightclubs, it is normal for people to be rowdy late at night on the weekends. However, the nighttime operation of public transit systems is made risk-free by the widespread use of police video monitoring on the city's streets. In Lyon, business areas have been designated as having a speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour (km/h), and the local police have increased the number of checks they do on drivers suspected of having consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel. In addition to that, they have put in place speed and red-light monitoring radar devices. Despite these measures, there were still six pedestrian fatalities caused by autos in 2010. The number of assaults and thefts in the neighborhood is quite uncommon, and the number of stolen passports and other personal things is pretty low.

Recent months have seen an upsurge in residential burglaries; the local press reports that there are about 30 per day, which is a 16 percent rise when compared to 2010. An organized gang of criminals was apprehended after a string of recent robberies at luxury goods shops and currency exchange firms. These heists were carried out using firearms. As cycling grows more popular in Lyon and the city as a whole becomes more bicycle-friendly, there is a correspondingly increased danger of bicycle theft.


At the Normandy beaches and the military cemeteries, automobile break-ins and thefts from parked vehicles are typical occurrences in the parking lots. It is never a good idea to leave valuables unattended in a vehicle. It is not a sufficient measure of protection to lock goods in the trunk, since criminals often pry through automobile trunks to take bags.


The city of Rennes is generally considered to be a safe and secure location, with crime rates that are typically lower than those seen in bigger cities in other parts of the world. There are sporadic incidents of disorderly conduct and drunkenness in the downtown area of Rennes. The largest and most rowdy crowds tend to congregate on Thursday nights in the neighborhood surrounding Rue Saint Michel (also known as "Rue de la Soif" or "Thirst Street") and the adjacent Place Sainte Anne. Some of these incidents have resulted in criminal activity. Both the political and law enforcement branches of the local authority place a premium on public safety. The police in Rennes are kept up to date on any possible dangers and act swiftly in response to any incidents of criminal activity that take place in the city. It is unfortunately not uncommon for valuables and/or passports to be stolen from people. Items of value that are left unattended in a vehicle overnight or for lengthy periods are more vulnerable to being stolen. In particular, tourist spots all around Brittany urge visitors not to leave costly stuff out in the open in their parked cars since there are a lot of break-ins at vehicles in the area. Also, do not leave bags unattended on trains.

The Midi-Pyrenees and the Toulouse

It is largely agreed upon that Toulouse and the surrounding Midi-Pyrenees area are secure. The most prevalent types of theft, including burglary, petty theft, grand theft auto, and vehicle break-ins, occur in neighborhoods close to train stations more often than in other parts of the city. It's possible to be carjacked or have your house broken into in Toulouse, especially in the more affluent neighborhoods. Even though goods and vehicles are often their targets, home invasions may become violent at any time. Travelers who are victims of crime often get excellent assistance from the police. Traveling street people, who often travel in groups and are sometimes accompanied by dogs, are becoming more common in the downtown area of Toulouse, especially when the weather is warmer. Even while the usage of alcohol and drugs may make people erratic, criminal acts committed by these individuals are uncommon.

What to do if you’re a victim of crime

There are around one hundred public receiving centers dispersed all across the city that is run by the Paris community police. To respond to victims and give support and assistance, each of the twenty district (arrondissement) central police stations is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

If you find yourself the victim of an assault, you should attempt to drive your assailant away by making as much noise as you can (yelling and screaming as loud as you can). Get into the closest business and ask someone to contact the police for you. Take cover there.

Make an effort to describe your aggressor (sex, approximate age, hair color, cut, height and weight, distinctive features, such as beard, scars, tattoos, glasses, etc.). Notify the police of your assailant's escape method as well as the route he took. In the event of a motor vehicle, make sure to include the hue, the manufacturer, and, if at all possible, the registration number (even if you have only seen part of this).

Well-known laws specific to France

The terms "public law" and "private law" each have their distinct meanings in French law. The government, the French Constitution, public administration, and criminal law are all part of what is known as "public law." The domain of private law concerns disputes between private parties, whether they are individuals or businesses.


The ideas of secularism are firmly entrenched in the French constitution, which is often referred to as laicité, and the separation of religion and state is the basis upon which the French Republic was built. This is not an anti-religion stance; rather, it reaffirms the public sphere's status as a secular one, while ensuring that the private sphere remains a safe place for the practice of all faiths. The government recognizes the critical role it plays in maintaining the integrity of society and has enacted several laws to ensure that this responsibility is met.

In line with these guiding principles, the government of France approved legislation in April 2011 that made it illegal to wear a burka in public places. The traditional garb that Muslim women are expected to wear was seen in the public domain as a display of religious belief and was perceived as a sign of division in French society. Previously, in 2004, France passed a law that banned overt displays of religious expression in public schools. This was addressed specifically at the practice of veiling, although it was meant to be taken to heart by people of all faiths.

Crimes abroad

According to French penal law, a French person may be tried and sentenced in France for any crime that they commit while committing the offense outside of France. Because of this, the government is now able to bring criminal charges against people regardless of where the crimes were committed by French residents. Individuals have been brought to justice for genocide as a result of this. The legislation also grants France jurisdiction in situations of genocide perpetrated by a non-French national against a French person. In these circumstances, the victim is a French national. However, in these kinds of situations, the public prosecutor may only begin criminal proceedings in response to a complaint lodged by the victim and their legal successors. In addition to this, France's criminal jurisdiction has worldwide reach because of the country's geographical influence, national security concerns, and concerns over the protection of money from counterfeiting.



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