Do you know which European country has the highest crime rate? The Vatican City. There are around 1,000 crimes reported each year, or 1.25 instances per head of population. It also has the lowest age of consent and it is legal to have sex with a 12 year old.
The fact that it has such a large influx of tourists every day accounts for the former fact, mostly pick-pocketing and purse-snatching and since the majority of its 800 population are Roman Catholic priests then the less said about the latter, the better.
It’s the statistics that interest me. They show that nowhere is entirely safe for the law-abiding, even places blessed with divine, omniscient CCTV and an ultimate Judgment Day deterrent.
I don’t worry too much about crime as a rule — it’s not something that normally affects my day to day life other than keeping a wary eye out if in a town or city after dark, and that nervousness is mostly unfounded. Not surprising then that crime wasn’t at the top of my worry list when we booked our trip to Cape Town.
Perhaps it should have been given the city’s reputation, but it didn’t. My head was anticipating lots of sunshine, fabulous scenery, great food, amazing wildlife and a vibrant city, not being mugged at knifepoint or carjacked.
It was passing references in the guidebooks that slowly unsettled me. Little tips like: don’t look like a tourist; carry small amounts of money to hand over if you’re robbed; be extra careful at ATMs; always lock your car doors, especially in cities; pin your car keys to your cossie when swimming. It’s quite a list.
Even Table Mountain is considered a crime zone and the advice is go walking as part of an organised group as lone trekkers risk getting mugged. All very disconcerting, but short of hiring personal protection like this lot, we just need to be prepared.
What concerns me most is my camera, or rather the photos I’m planning to take. It won’t come as a total surprise if my camera fails to survive the month, but its covered by insurance. What isn’t are the memories on the memory card, so I am making plans to download them regularly to a laptop, copy them to DVD and upload them to the web in a belt, braces and piece of string operation.
Fingers crossed, such pessimism will prove unwarranted, but it is better to travel in expectation than hope.