Pick-pocketing and bag-snatching in Rome has increased by nearly 25 per cent in the last year, according to a new police report. Currently around 61 such thefts a day are reported in the capital, up from 49 a day in 2005 and 35 a day in 2004. This translates to a petty crime occurring once every 23 minutes, seven days a week. So far, some 17,400 reports have been filed in 2006, but only 950 arrests have been made. On average, each sting costs the unfortunate victim around 300, bringing the total monthly earnings of Rome's pick-pockets to around 0.5 million.

Among the tricks of the trade, pick-pockets are now posing as tourists asking for directions and using the cover of a city map to relieve people of wallets and valuables. Another scam is for a couple to stand at the doors of metro trains and appear to have a heated argument, while they use the distraction for a little light-fingered work as people get on and off. Activity is not limited to the city centre, taking place also in the areas of St Peter's, Prati, Parioli, EUR and S. Paolo. The advice of Rome's anti-crime squad: "Never let your guard down."