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How Not to Get Mugged (Robbed) in Turkey

Ken Grubb

A mugger holds a knife as he lies in wait to rob a victim.Mugging

The occurrence of violent crimes, even in large cities, is lower than in comparable cities in other parts of the world. In smaller towns, it is practically unheard of. But muggings can happen, in places including shopping malls, parking lots, and even outside of your own home. In most muggings in Turkey, thankfully, the victim is not hurt. The muggers simply overpower the victim by holding them down, or may display a weapon, get the valuables, and disappear.


Muggers typically roam around or lie in wait looking for an unprepared or unaware target. They are not necessarily looking for a weak victim, but an easy one--a soft target. While deciding whether or not to mug someone, street criminals weigh the potential benefits with the potential risks of being caught, or even hurt. They also read the behavior of their intended victim as they decide whether to act or pass him or her by for an easier victim. You can prevent yourself from becoming a victim by making these factors work to your advantage.

Make Yourself a Hard Target

  • Learn to be alert. Learn what is normal on any route you usually take, so you will know when something is not normal.
  • Travel with others.
  • Stay in well-lit areas which are populated with people.
  • Avoid taking shortcuts you are unfamiliar with or are less secure than your normal route.
  • Walk tall, with confidence and a sense of purpose, alert and looking around rather than always at the ground or straight ahead.
  • Know where you're going before you go.
  • Don't walk while preoccupied with texting, listening to music, or talking on a mobile phone.
  • Note "safe havens" nearby, such as restaurants, hotels, police stations, or other places you can go if something looks wrong.
  • If you need to look at a map or get your bearings, do so in a cafe or restaurant.
  • Learn where dangerous areas of town are and avoid them, especially at night.
  • Take a taxi instead of walking at night.
  • Walk on the sidewalk, near the curb, facing traffic. If a car comes to a stop you will see it, and you will better be able to see inside the car.
  • Keep your distance from someone on the street or in a car asking you a question or for directions. Look behind you as well, since the question may be a distraction.
  • If you've had too much to drink, take a taxi home.
  • If something looks wrong to you, it probably is. Don't hesitate or think you are being overly cautious. Move to a safe haven.

Minimize Potential Loss

  • Don't carry valuables you don't need. Keep excess cash and your passport in the safe in your room, or at reception.
  • Carry a copy of your passport (identifying information and the entry stamp page) instead of the original.
  • If you need to have a credit card or debit card, take one and leave the others in a safe place as above.
  • Use a money belt or a neck pouch to keep your valuables out if sight, inside your clothes.

Using Bank Machines

  • Use bank machines only in well-lit, populated areas.
  • Don't keep your PIN number in your wallet.
  • If you are in the middle of a transaction and something looks wrong, hit cancel, grab your card, and leave.

Mobile Phones

While mobile phones are a great way to call the police, they are also a popular item to steal. If your mobile phone is stolen, you can shut it down if you know your mobile phone's IMEI number and report the theft to your service provider.

If You Are Mugged

The safest thing to do is cooperate and hand over your valuables, especially if a weapon is involved, since your life is the most valuable thing you have. Some street thieves sniff glue or various household chemicals, and there is no telling what mental state they may be in or what they will do. They often carry knives.

If the situation dictates, or you are trained to do so, you can make a lot of noise and fight back. Some recommend shouting "fire" (ateş, [ah-tesh]) on the assumption that more people will come to your aid for a fire than they would to a mugging. The fact is that, at least in Turkey, a good, loud scene will almost always bring people running to see what's happening.

Aggressively shouting fighting words can also make you seem too aggressive (and noisy) for the muggers to deal with, while at the same time bringing others to your aid. Don't forget simply running away (also while making a lot of noise) as another option.

In any case, try to keep your wits about you and get a description. Besides height, weight, hair color, and clothing worn, note anything unique about the mugger. Then report the robbery to the police immediately.

What you do in a mugging situation is your decision, and you should think your options carefully, before you are in a bad situation, and take a street safety or self-defense course from a qualified instructor.

See Also

Crime, Safety, and Terrorism in Turkey Forum: If you have questions or comments about this topic, please post them in our forum.

Ken Grubb, author.

As a special investigator for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and teacher for the University of Maryland, Ken Grubb has lived and worked in Turkey since 1997. He now lives in Antalya, where he researches and writes guides to help others live skillfully in Turkey.


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