Well since arriving in Cali we have been a lot more focused on safety while traveling. This is due to further research we did online about Cali that determined it can be a dangerous place. Coupled with the myriad of travel safety posts that started to come to the forefront on blogs I read we have really sharpened our safety skills. I can be a person who obsesses about things. I know this about myself and work to control that behavior in myself. In the case of safety I feel I have been a little relaxed in my obsessive tendencies and in this case, that could be a bad thing.
We have learned a lot about the dangers in Cali and have determined the majority of violent crimes are committed because of revenge or gang turf wars. The last stat for violence is theft. We are not totally clear on what kind of theft but we are pretty sure it happens in the neighborhoods wrought with gang activity. We have familiarized ourselves with the areas of town to avoid and we don’t go there. These areas have become militarized to improve crime in these areas.
This kind of military infiltration has reduced violent crimes dramatically in Bogota, Medellin and already here in Cali. I feel much more comfortable walking around Cali knowing the things we’ve learned. It has given us defined borders for exploring and a heighted awareness of our surroundings. Being more aware has already paid off. Someone tried to pick my pocket! And I knew it and managed to prevent it. There are 4 things that contributed directly to me keeping the contents in my purse, myself and my family safe and here they are:
- We have taught Makai he must hold hands and listen to instructions from Mom and Dad and comply immediately in some situations. We make those situations clear to him before setting out so he knows and understands the situation and the rules. Generally this applies to crowded places or busy public venues. Good communication is key. Both before you leave and while out and about.
- Rob always takes the lead walking on skinny sidewalks or unfamiliar side streets. He is a big guy that can look intimidating. A lot of the intimidation comes from a confident look on his face. A look of confidence sends the message, “These people are comfortable here, they know the area, they belong here.” This can deter people with bad intentions.
- I walk behind Rob with Makai in between us or in the front holding Robs hand to the inside of the sidewalk. This gives me the opportunity to routinely check behind us and scanning left and right. Robs got straight ahead covered, I take the rest. I watch for people following us or moving very quickly toward us. I read if someone is moving quickly strait for you this can be a sign they want to take something from you.
- If you are uncomfortable in a certain situation listen to your gut, don’t discount your instincts. Stop what you’re doing or discontinue where you are going. Then communicate with everyone in your party and then make a new plan.
We have traveled to many big cities like Rome, Bangkok and Buenos Aries and Cali is no different in a lot of respects. Lots of people, lots of cars, busy streets, crowded sidewalks. So walking on the streets here in Cali is like familiar territory for us. We were walking around the Centro here in Cali scoping out places to eat and photo opportunities and turned down a busy market street to make our way back to the apartment. We assumed our formation, Rob and Mak up front and me behind and walked with a purposeful pace. As we worked our way down a busy block I caught a glimpse of a young women, 20ish, approaching us quickly from behind. She came to walk right close to me slowing her pace to match mine. The sidewalk was quite crowded with stores on the right and street vendors on the left but I knew something was up.
She was going to try and pickpocket me.
I turned my head to look at her and she kept her head low. I felt something pull on my purse so I pulled it in front of me purposely and shoulder checked again. She was still there.
I held my purse to the front of me and then focused on Makai and Robs bag having a firm grip on my purse. I spoke in a firm loud clear voice, “Rob stop here now”. Rob stopped and she bolted, disappearing into the crowd. She managed to get one zipper open. It is the front pocket of my purse I don’t keep anything in for obvious reasons. Having shoulder checked I mentally took stock of all discerning characteristics to be able to recognize her in a crowd as best I could and shared that information with Rob to keep an eye out.
This is the first time someone has attempted to pick my pocket and I am glad I was ready for it. It does pay to be aware and employ behaviors to deter a pick pocket. Which brings me to 3 more pickpocket preventative measures:
- Carry less stuff. If you don’t imperatively need it don’t bring it.
- TSA locks on bags or backpacks to keep zippers and cameras secure.
- Wear shoulder bags across your body with the zippers next to your body and toward the front of your hip.
I have always found Lonely Planet travel guides and organic Google searches to be the best resources to check for scams specific to certain cities. It’s always a good idea to know the tricks and scams you could encounter before you arrive. Knowledge like this can help you be ready to save your money or belongings when exploring your next travel destination.