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City news
Police Aim To Improve Safety For Tourists
08.06.2004 13:11

tourists_security ST PETERSBURG TIMES

Police Aim To Improve Safety For Tourists

By Vladimir Kovalev

STAFF WRITER

A working group to provide security for foreign tourists visiting St. Petersburg has been set up by the Russian Union of Tourism Industry or RTS, the city police, City Hall's external affairs committee and a range local tourist companies, the police said Thursday.

A working group to provide security for foreign tourists visiting St. Petersburg has been set up by the Russian Union of Tourism Industry or RTS, the city police, City Hall's external affairs committee and a range local tourist companies, the police said Thursday.

The group aims for closer cooperation between tourist companies, hotel businesses and the police to prevent crimes being committed against foreign visitors in St. Petersburg.

At the first meeting Thursday the police agreed to set up a direct line between the two new tourist information centers on Palace Square and Sadovaya Ulitsa and police department No. 6, which is responsible for crimes against foreigners. This would enable foreigners wishing to report crimes to visit the tourist centers where staff will be able to assist them contacting the police

"This way foreign visitors will have the option of getting immediate assistance if something happens to them. An operator would be able call to an officer on duty who in a short period of time can send a police patrol, if necessary, or give an advice what to do," said Sergei Korneyev, head of RTS in a telephone interview Thursday.

Foreign tourists wishing to report crimes can also contact the police directly. The telephone number for the department handling foreigners is 278 3014. Officers speaking English are on duty in this department.

The numbers for the tourism centers are 310-2822 and 310-9332, although these are only open from 10 a.m. through 7 p.m each day.

"[Tourists] come to us about three times a week with things stolen, such as cameras, for instance. There was a case yesterday when a $900 camera was stolen on Palace Square, so I went to the police with them where a report was filed in Russian," said Yelena Cherepova, an employee of a tourist center located on Palace Square in a telephone interview Thursday.

It is often important to get a police report to file an insurance claim against lost or stolen property, Cherepova said.

"Documents [such as passports] are stolen very rarely. As for money, if it's gone, it's gone. Although the police work undercover not much comes of it. The cases [of theft] mostly happen on Palace Square and Kanal Griboyedova," she said.

The police have also agreed to simplify procedures that foreigners have to follow when they report stolen documents, Korneyev said.

An information leaflet signed by the police officials at the working group meeting Thursday says that if a foreigner loses his documents he or she should approach any police department in the city that would issue an official form stating that documents are gone. If a passport is stolen the next step for a tourist is to apply to the diplomatic missions of their countries in St. Petersburg. To get new visas to replace stolen ones visitors are advised to approach the organization that issued the original invitation, and the police visa office located near to the place where a foreign citizen is registered. When applying foreign citizens must have two passport photos, the leaflet says.

If the passport is replaced the new visa can be issued in not more than 20 working days, the leaflet says.

Korneyev said he is very satisfied with the way the police have co-operated with the working group this tourist season.

"The police met our suggestion of increasing the number of patrols in the central part of St. Petersburg and this has had an effect. The number of crimes, such as small scale theft has dropped recently," Korneyev said.

"There are cases of pickpockets in museums, like the [State] Hermitage for instance, and the area nearby. But in a megalopolis like St. Petersburg it is impossible to solve this problem," he said.

Meanwhile the police said a further increase in the number of patrols on city streets should not be expected in the near future "because of the current situation in the Caucasus," with a number of local police sent for temporary duties in Chechnya.

This does not look as a perfect way to deal with the problem anyway, said Pavel Rayevsky, the city police spokesman in a telephone interview Thursday.

"I don't know any other country in the world where this problem can have been solved except for countries that for hundreds of years have chopped off the hands of thieves as punishment," Rayevsky said in a telephone interview Thursday.

"It is not that simple and even Americans can't do anything with pickpockets," he said.

"Looking at our statistics, St. Petersburg doesn't look any worse than any other European city in relation to crimes committed against foreign tourists. On average it's one hundredth the total number of crimes committed in the city, which is about 46,000 annually," said Rayevsky.

There are slightly more than 400 crimes being committed against foreign visitors and this is mainly assaults with no serious physical consequences or robberies, according to the police.

"Although the number of crimes is relatively small we're quite concerned about it and will definitely propose certain measures, which is one of the aims of the working group," he said.

News source: www.times.spb.ru
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