Crime And Police In Russia

Moscow and St Petersburg are world famous for their architecture, their history, their culture and just for being two of the world's great kick ass cities. But unfortunately St Petersburg picked up a little fame for all the wrong reasons, indeed TripAdvisor has a page dedicated to street crime in St Petersburg -- a page full of horror stories of Damien-like gypsy kids and their older counterparts robbing using anything from pickpocketing to semi-violent means to relieve tourists of their cameras and other belongings.

However, if you look more closely, the latest report of criminal activity dates back to 2007 and the only post since then seems to give a balanced and fair overview of a city with no worse a problem with street-crime than any major city, in fact may be even a little bit less. He says the other posts are probably based on rumours or outdated information.

The post could be made by someone with a vested interest in talking up the market. However, his report is confirmed by the lack of reports since 2007 and the fact that the comment is honest about negatives in such a way as make it see genuine and impartial, so we will give it the benefit of the doubt. He gives the following advice to avoid crime on the streets of St Petersburg.

By all accounts the same goes for Moscow, that crimes levelled against foreigners such as street-crime like pickpocketing is certainly no more prevalent than in any major city and might be slightly less so.

Safety Tips:

  • Keep your wallet/purse in a zipped pocket or on a neck strap, although according to the poster pickpocketing is rare in today's St Petersburg, apart from a particularly crowded 3-block section of Nevsky pr from the 20 block up to Sadova Ul, and in the metro at the Gostiny Dvor metro line going south at very crowded times.
  • Ask your taxi driver to wait if you are being dropped off in an unlit area at night
  • Find out from hotel staff which areas around the hotel are best to avoid
  • Meet strangers in busy places
  • Don't leave valuables in your car or on tables in cafes or restaurants
  • Non-essential valuables should be locked up in hotel safes
  • Avoid holding large sums of cash. Use credit cards and travelers cheques instead
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the original
  • Walk with your bag facing away from the street to avoid snatching by thieves on motorcycles
  • If another driver or person gestures for you to stop your car, don’t stop until you find a busy, well-lit public place to do so

Police Corruption

You can't delve far into Russian tourism without finding out that there is a lot of corruption in the police force, or just underpaid police looking to supplement their income, either way tourists and foreigners are often stopped by the police and asked for their papers before being bribed to pay because of some error or other with them or simply to get them back.

Some tourists talk about being advised by their hotel to only carry photocopies, but then others say that they were then bribed for not presenting the originals. Perhaps the best advice is to just keep calm and pay the 1000 rubles or whatever the going rate is, rather than spending any time in the unpleasantness of a Russian jail cell. Most of the corruption takes place in Moscow, because St Petersburg now has the tourist police actively patrolling the streets.

Tourist Police

The St. Petersburg Tourist Police (Туристи ческая полиция) was established in 2011 as a single law enforcement agency for crimes committed against tourists and is responsible for providing assistance to visitors to the city. The Tourist Police was given responsibility for undertaking these roles by the regional branch of the Russian Tourism Ministry.

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