Crime in Bosnia: How to Stay Safe in Sarajevo

Throughout Bosnia, the crime rate remains low to moderate. As an added bonus, foreign travellers are not specifically targeted for violent criminal activities.

However, there has been a recent rise in crime in Sarajevo. Often in the form of theft rather than murder, it is still becoming a problem. Reports from the embassy have shown an increase in armed robbery, breaking and entering, motor vehicle related thefts and pick pocketing.

While several of these incidents did involve foreign travellers and members of the international community, it seems as if it's mostly part of the general trend of increased criminal activity in Sarajevo.

Theft

One of the exceptions to this is pick pocketing. Foreign travellers are usually easy prey because they don't follow local customs and usually have money to steal. For instance, Bosnians don't usually wear backpacks, but travellers often use these bags out of convenience or habit. This makes it extremely easy to pick a tourist out in a crowd. And pickpockets are very good at stealing from backpacks without you noticing.

(Don't let your guard down!)

Beware of beggars; a common scam is for the beggar to act as distraction while the pickpocket steals your wallet. Keep track of your wallet, bag, purse, or handbag at all times. Placing it behind your chair, out of your sight, while eating or sitting in a public place is an excellent way to never see it again.

Crime on Trains

Watch out for theft and fraud on trains. There have been several cases of theft from locked compartments because the locks aren't secure. So keep your valuables on you, out of sight. No point in making it easier for thieves now is there?

As for fraud, there are always various scams going on, so be careful and use common sense. If someone tries to tell you that you have to pay a strange extra fee you've never heard of, it might be a scam. Use caution. If a beggar approaches you on the train, keep your hand on your wallet. Someone might be about to steal it.

Be especially careful on trams, where there this kind of activity is even more likely to happen.

Violent Crime

When it comes to violence, criminals in Bosnia and Herzegovina use direct approaches to settle their various differences. And by direct, I mean they use hand grenades. Like criminals all over the world, they also use guns, but they seem to have a distinct preference for hand grenades.

(Graffiti-covered wall in Sarajevo showing evidence of more violent times)

In 2010 there were 27 separate incidents where criminals used hand grenades for various reasons. As you might have guessed, this can be a bit of a shock if you're nearby when one goes off.

Safety Advice

In general, take the same precautions you would take while travelling anywhere else. Keep any important items you really don't want stolen out of the public eye. Try to blend in with the locals by not wearing a backpack.

Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth, like waving around fistfuls of money and covering yourself in bling. These actions simply tell criminals you have money to steal, and you'll make yourself more of a target than you otherwise might be.

(Following this safety advice will help travellers enjoy their time in the sprawling city of Sarajevo)

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