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Revealed: The UK hotspots where you could fall victim to pickpocketing

Be honest: how do you act when you’re a tourist overseas, do you shamelessly hang your expensive camera around your neck or are you much more discreet when it comes to your personal belongings? 

While you may be wary of your personal items when you’re abroad, you’re more likely to be relaxed when visiting a city in the UK. But with so many people looking for places to stay closer to home (+75%)*, it’s important to remember that you could still fall victim to a pickpocket. 

We’ve crunched the data to find out where in the UK has the highest number of pickpocketing crimes, and where has the least, and the results may surprise you…

You’re most likely to get pickpocketed in Westminster 

If you’re considering visiting London for a weekend away, then be cautious with your personal belongings. We can reveal that Westminster has the largest number of theft from a person crimes totalling 27,524 in 2019-20. 

Now, this could be because Westminster is an extremely touristy area, making it a place for lots of pickpockets to try their luck, but like you would in any capital city, make sure you’re always wary of your possessions.

Leeds is the worst northern city for pickpocketing 

The only place to appear on our top 10 list outside of London is Leeds, which reported 3,432 crimes (theft from a person) over the space of two years. It was the only location in the top 10 areas located in the north rather than the south, likely because it’s a central location for booming business ventures and tourists. 

Sheffield was the next northern location that was highest for pickpocketing, with theft from a person amounting to 1,536 crimes from 2019-2020. Then came the north-east city of Newcastle, just outside the top 20 ranking 22nd, with a total of 1,289 crimes (theft from a person) being reported. It seems that the larger northern cities are favourites of pickpockets, much like the popular tourist hotspots in London. 

Perhaps this is because thieves are aware that those visiting these locations as tourists are less likely to know the area, and people become complacent wandering the city streets as they don’t consider protecting their belongings as much as they would abroad. But some could say that in London and these northern cities, the population is larger, so each area is more likely to be affected by this type of crime.

The top safest places to avoid pickpocketing 

Despite being a thriving metropolis frequented by many people from the UK and beyond, the city of Edinburgh has a wonderfully low level of pickpocketers a year. As few as eight thefts (from a person) in 2019 and three in 2020 were recorded in the Scottish capital. 

The Port of Dover is the safest place in the UK 

The Port of Dover is usually a destination for onward travel due to the busy ferry terminal, which is why it could be surprising that it’s a location where next to no pickpocketing crimes with zero thefts reported over the last two years. 

The Isle of Wight, Dundee , Bridgend and Middlesbrough followed closely behind, though, with just one theft (from a person) being reported in 2019 and having zero pickpocket thefts occurring in 2020. So, it appears the more remote locations in the UK, with smaller populations, are less likely to be frequented by pickpockets.

Top tips for keeping your personal belongings safe 

If you’re visiting a new city, you want to be able to enjoy the sights without having to worry about a pickpocket taking your personal belongings. These top tips will help you to keep your prized possessions safe, leaving you to enjoy your trip away!

1. Store expensive items in your hotel room safe 

While you won’t have your passport on you if you’re staycationing, you’ll still likely be taking other expensive items with you. If you’ve brought cash or jewellery that you’re not using on a particular day, leave them in your hotel room safe. 

2. Be discreet with your valuable items 

If you’re carrying your phone, cash or camera then make sure you keep them as hidden as possible. If a pickpocket notices your phone in your back pocket, you’re more likely to become a target. 

Carry valuables in an inner pocket (making sure they don’t have any holes in them!) or consider purchasing a money belt that you can wear inside your clothes to carry your cards and cash in. Carry bags in front of you or diagonally across your chest and don’t hang them on the back of a chair in a pub or restaurant. 

If you see a sign warning of pickpockets, don’t instinctively reach to make sure your wallet and phone are safe. Pickpockets are known to install themselves close to such signs as people checking their belongings will instantly alert the thieves to where their valuables are. 

3. Take out travel insurance 

You might think that you only need to purchase travel insurance if you’re travelling abroad, but you can get it for your staycation. Our UK travel insurance policies could cover you if you plan to go on a staycation, and you do unfortunately need to make a claim. However, if you’ve already taken out an annual travel insurance policy then check the T&Cs to know what you are covered for.

What we’ve learnt about pickpockets… 

Our recent discoveries proved that some more popular areas in the UK may not be rife with pickpockets like you’d expect them to be, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t stay cautious. Wherever you’re travelling to in the UK, you should always keep your wits about you, protect your belongings and stay vigilant and alert to your surroundings. 

Essentially, the level of pickpockets in an area is important to be aware of, but it shouldn’t stop you from travelling somewhere you’d love to visit. If you’re taking measures to protect your belongings, you’re doing everything you can (within your control) to beat the pickpockets out there. 

Brought to you by the travel insurance experts at comparethemarket.com.

Methodology 

*Google Search Data was taken from: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-gb/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/travel-tourism-new-trends-tools/ & https://hotelinsights.withgoogle.com/intl/en/global-insights/?region=gb&timePeriod=TWELVE_WEEKS. Data is YOY gathered November 2021. 

FOI requests for numbers of "Theft from a person" or "pickpocketing" crime were sent to all 48 civilian police forces in the UK, of which 27 responded and shared the data on their relative areas of jurisdiction, which has then been included in this analysis. Where pickpocketing is mentioned, it refers to ‘theft from a person’ crimes committed. 

The data provided from the police forces were extracted and combined into one data set, producing a compilation of the entire data received. Following on from this, the data was combined across 2019 and 2020 to produce a total number of "theft from a person" crimes for each area provided. 

The locations were then ranked on the total number of crimes involving "theft from a person" over 2019 and 2020, from highest to lowest. 

2021 data was not included, as for some forces the data was not available, and for others, only a partial amount of data was available, meaning a fair comparison could not be made between locations. 

Please note, where two police forces are mentioned, this is because we received data, for the location, from two different police forces, therefore the data from both forces has been combined.