Written by Transitions.cz
for the Ceska Sporitelna handbook
Compared to many Western cities, Prague is relatively safe. You will generally find policemen very helpful. Prague is an unthreatening city to walk around. Violent crimes in the city centre are rare. The main criminal problem is petty pilfering (pickpockets) from cars, hotels, and pockets. As with any city, always use caution and care when travelling around.
Using your common sense will help you to avoid Prague´s only real epidemic: pickpockets. Always remember to keep your bag in sight and avoid carrying your passport, wallet and valuables in your back pocket or an open bag. Thieves tend to operate around the city´s crowded sights, such as the Charles Bridge and on tram lines (mainly numbers 9, 22, 23). The organised groups use many tactics: one knocking into you while the other steals your belongings, being in your way while entering a tram while the other pushes you in and steals your wallet. Be aware that people who lean over to look at your menu may be more interested in your wallet. In a restaurant: never leave your handbag or coat containing a wallet unguarded on a chair next to you or hanging over the back of your chair. It is unlikely that anything stolen will ever be recovered.
Belongings in cars
Car alarms have proved not to be a deterrent. Try and park your car in an underground car park, especially if you are driving a foreign make. Never leave anything of value in your car.
Women may encounter a few stares and comments, but this is about as far as sexual harassment will go. However, women, who are alone, should try to avoid Wenceslas Square at night. As with any major city, always exercise extreme caution when travelling alone.
It is technically illegal not to carry some form of identification (normally your passport). Although you are unlikely to be asked to produce it, having it could save a lot of problems. However, we recommend carrying photocopies of all essential documents while keeping the originals in a safe place.
The Police and Security Services
In Prague you will come across several kinds of policemen and women and members of various security services. Report any problems to a uniformed state police officer at a police station. To file a police report, go to the Praha 1 police station (Jungmannovo náměstí 9, Nové Město, Praha 1), as this is the police station that can organise an interpreter rapidly. If the theft occurred in another district, the interpreter will take you to that district´s police station to make a report.
In an emergency, dial 158.
The state police carry guns and can arrest a suspect. They patrol the streets on foot or drive green and white patrol cars.
The municipal police are the other main security force, have greater powers, and are divided into different sections.
Traffic police ensure the smooth running of traffic and regulate parking, speeding and drunk driving. It is illegal to drive with any alcohol in your bloodstream – any accident you may have will automatically be considered your fault no matter what the circumstances. If you have an accident, call 158 immediately and do not move the car. If you move the car you will not be able to claim insurance. It is illegal to use your cell phone while driving unless you have a hands free system installed in your car.
The „black sheriffs“ (as they are called) come from a number of private security guards (many of them actually wear black uniforms). They tend to guard banks and are used as security at sports events and so on.
We advise your family to get to know the locality of your living area. Find out the location of the nearest police department to your house as well as the closest bus stop and bus number. Teach your children proper behaviour around strangers and what to do if they get lost. Always secure your doors/windows. Always check identity cards of unknown persons, be aware of your surroundings and what is going on around you.
Crime in the Czech Republic is mostly non-violent in nature: purse snatchers and pick pockets operate mostly in tourist areas through out the city. Be wary of groups of people shouting and shoving each other to get onto a tram or metro. This is often a smokescreen for a pick pocketing operation. Do not speak to strangers who approach you on the street with offers of illegal money-changing. They can also be part of a pick pocket scam. Above all be aware of your surroundings and particularly what is happening behind you and take sensible precautions.