Street Crime in Turkey

Last Updated on February 12, 2023

Although Turkey is admirably safe in most regards,street crime is on the rise in the large cities.

I don't mean to alarm you. I've traveled in Turkey for over 40 years and I've never lost a penny to crime, or suffered any injury.

But like most countries, Turkey is not as safe as it used to be. There has been an increase in local crime, and evidence that criminals from neighboring countrieshave come to Turkey as well.

Street crimes in large cities used to be mostly those of stealthpocket-picking, bag-slashing, etc.

It's good to remember, however, that street crime is a problem in every large city in the world; that relatively few visitors are victims of crimes; and that those who practice good urban safety precautions are least likely to be bothered by crime.

While walking or shopping in the big cities (AnkaraIstanbulİzmir, etc.), beware of:

Pickpockets (yankesici): in any crowded place such as a bus, tram, Metro, market, entrance to a busy place—anywhere where people are packed close together, guard your bag, wallet, camera, jewelry, wrist watch, and anything else of value. Street crime methods...

Bag-slashers: they get behind or beside you in a crowded place, slash your bag or pocket with a razor blade and collect your valuables. You don't see or feel a thing. Defense: keep your bag in front of you where you can see it, not behind you.

Bag-snatchers (kapkaççı): often young boys, they will lunge past you, grabbing your bag on the way. Thedefense is pretty simple: when in a crowded place, wear your bag strap across your chest and hold your bag close, just as you would in a New York subway or the London Underground. This wouldn't stop a determined thief, of course, but the point is that the thief is not after your bag, he's after the easiest bag. By holding yours firmly, you remove yourself from the 'easy' category. He'll probably look elsewhere for a mark.

If your bag is snatched, it's best to raise a ruckus, but not to pursue the thief. Yelling Kapkaççı! (kahp-KAHTCH-chuh) might rally bystanders to your aid. But bag-snatchers—even young boys—often carry knives and can be dangerous so it's wise to leave pursuit to the police.

Con artists (dolandırıcı): the world's variety of cons (swindles) is endless, so be on your guard. One con I encountered: when he learned I was American, a guy asked if he could "see a US dollar." "I've never seen a dollar," he said. Hah! It was a con to find out where I kept my money and to get it out in the open so he could grab it and run.

Another con aimed at women with children in pushchairs/strollers: several heavily-cloaked women surround you "to admire your child." One reaches for the child. The mother rushes to protect the child, one of the thieves grabs her purse, and they all flee, hiding the purse under their robes.

Mugging (robbery by force) is rare but possible, especially in popular tourist areas of Istanbul such as SultanahmetTaksim Square, and the Grand Bazaar. At the same time, the police are using high-tech methods (closed-circuit TV surveillance, etc) to minimize crime. Here are some tips:

— Travel with others if possible. Lone travelers are more susceptible to crime.

— Use taxis, especially if you're carrying luggage or parcels, or if it's dark. For shopping trips, you can have your hotel call a taxi, then arrange with the driver to meet you at an appointed time and place for the trip back to your hotel with your parcels. (But taxis present their own problemsMore...)

Rape is rare, but it does happen, so observe the normal travel precautions. Women travelers should be sensitive to local customs and attitudes. More...

Street Crime Methods

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