Safety while you’re Abroad
Telephone Directory Assistence number – 12
Carabinieri - 112
Police (Polizia) – emergency number 113 (in emergency, this works also for ambulance & fire)
Medical emergencies (emergenze sanitarie) - 118
Fire service (Vigili del fuoco) – 115
Prato Municipal City Police (Polizia municipale) – non-emergency 0574 42391
Financial Police (Guardia di finanza) - 117
Italy - Country Code
The country code for calling Italy from outside the country is 39.
Notes on Italy's Emergency Phone Numbers
Despite the rise in cell phone ownership, a few public telephones are still visible throughout Italy. These days most operate by use of a phone card (Carta Telefonica) which may be purchased at any newsstand, tobacco shop or at many bars.
The Police - Who does what?
This can be confusing at first!
In Italy there are five police forces: Polizia di Stato, Arma dei Carabinieri, Guardia di Finanza, Polizia Penitenziaria and Corpo Forestale dello Stato. Also, the functions of the Polizia di Stato and the Carabinieri are overlapping.
Polizia di Stato
It is the main police force for providing police duties and it is also responsible for highway patrol (autostrade), railways (ferrovie), airports (aeroporti), customs (together with the Guardia di Finanza) as well as certain waterways, and assisting the local police forces.
The Carabinieri are a sort of local branch of military police derived from the ancient Corps of the Royal Carabinieri instituted by Vittorio Emanuel (King of Italy) in 1814, who gave the Carabinieri the dual function of national defense and policing with special powers and prerogatives.
The polizia municipale are the municipal police of Italy responsible to the mayors of the various municipalities of Italy. Traffic control is their main function in addition to enforcing statal, regional and local laws regarding commerce, legal residence, pets and other administrative duties. They also have all other police duties, with the exception of public safety, because this is an exclusive duty of the Polizia di Stato and Polizia Municipale has just an auxiliary function.
Municipal police officers are also referred to as vigili (singular: vigile, meaning watchful, alert) but the official name is agente di polizia locale (APL), meaning 'local police officer'. In some regions, especially while regulating traffic, they wear white custodian helmets similar to the black helmets worn by British police officers.
Guardia di Finanza
An Italian law enforcement agency under the authority of the Minister of Economy and Finance and part of the Italian armed forces. The Guard is essentially responsible for dealing with financial crime and smuggling; it has also evolved into Italy's primary agency for suppressing the drugs trade. The Guardia di Finanza maintains over 600 boats and ships and more than 100 aircraft to serve in its mission of patrolling Italy's territorial waters
Subordinate to the Italian Ministry of Justice, the Polizia Penitenziaria operate the Italian prison system as corrections officers. It ensures the security of Italian prisons, keeping unauthorized people out and preventing escape by prisoners. It also maintains order inside prisons, handles the transportation of inmates to and from prison and to court or medical appointments, and manages work and education programs for inmates.
Corpo Forestale dello Stato
An agency under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the CFS acts as a park ranger force responsible for protecting Italy's natural resources, the environment, countryside and ecosystems, especially national parks and national forests. Its duties include arresting poachers, investigating environmental violations, safeguarding protected animal species, enforcing endangered species laws, and preventing and fighting wildfires through 15 regional commands and its fleet of 22 fire-fighting aircraft. The CFS is also responsible for civil protection in Italy's mountain areas and for disaster relief.
If you want to know more…
Enforcement of public order and security policies is entrusted to the Department of Public Security, headed by the Chief of Police - Director-general of Public Security. The Chief of Police is designated by the Minister of the Interior and appointed by the President of the Italian Republic, subject to the resolution of the Council of ministers. He is assisted by a First Deputy Director-general, a Deputy Director-general responsible for the Co-ordination of Police Forces, and a Deputy Director-general in charge of the Criminal Police Central Directorate. The Department of Public Security coordinates police forces' operations, and manages and organizes the Polizia di Stato - Italian National Police.
The Department of Public Security consists of a Secretariat, 13 Central Directorates and 4 Offices. Some of them have an interagency status as they are staffed with personnel from the Polizia di Stato, but also Guardia di Finanza and Carabinieri.
Some Safety Advice against Petty Crime
Although Prato is a very safe town in Italy, it is important that students are aware of how to protect themselves against petty crime. Being aware is the first step toward preventing incidents of robbery or theft from occurring. When traveling throughout Italy and Europe, try to follow the safety advice below:
Adapted from the website of the Polizia di Stato (Italian State Police)
Bag snatching and pickpocketing
Unfortunately these are common problems for tourists and students in some areas. Sometimes bag snatchers ride mopeds or motorbikes, so when you’re walking, keep hand and shoulder bags on the wall side, not the street side, ideally across your body, protecting them with your forearm, and avoid carrying valuables and documents. Do not carry your wallet in your back pocket or in bags which can be opened easily. Do not flaunt earrings, chains and other precious or very eye-catching gold jewelry: having something like that snatched can also cause serious injuries. When you’re in a bar or a restaurant, never hang your bag over the back of your chair where you can’t see it.
Some tricks frequently used to rob people by pickpockets
Banging into the victim; Using cardboards, newspapers, and clothes to hide when pick-pocketing; causing a crowd blockage when passengers are trying to get on or off trains; staining the victim's clothes and then offering help to clean up; asking information to divert the victim's attention.
When with friends
Friendships and new acquaintances abroad are great, but be careful! Select your new friends well. If you have to go back home late, get someone to take you home or pick you up. Always help each other out by escorting each other on nights out. NEVER leave someone on their own at a bar or a party.
If you think someone is following you
Go to the nearest police station. Stop a police officer. Go into a bar or another crowded place. Ask a passer-by for help.
At the Post Office and at the bank
When withdrawing money, try not to go alone. Put your cash into an inside pocket and keep a purse with a few odd coins handy so that you can use it for shopping or, in case of robbery, give it to the criminals. If you feel like you’re being watched, stop inside the bank or the Post Office and express your fears to the person you are with or to the security guard. If you are in the street, go inside a shop, look for a police officer or a trustworthy person. Be careful when using your cash card: do not withdraw any money if you feel like you’re being watched.
Tips for travelling on public transport
Beware of pickpockets. Don't carry your wallet in your back pocket. Be vigilant not only on buses and trains, but also on platforms while waiting to get on: at the bus stop or underground stations a bit of apparently normal pushing and shoving may be a deliberate trick.
Don't fall asleep leaving your bags, shoulder bags and jackets unattended. Don't leave any valuables in your compartment if you go to the toilet or for longer absences. If you travel in a sleeping car, don't forget to lock your compartment door. Don't accept to bring bags or items belonging to unknown travel companions, especially when passing Customs checks. Avoid isolated compartments on trains. Don't accept any food or drinks from strangers: they may contain sleeping drugs or narcotics. Beware of requests or offers for help from strangers: it could be a trick to divert your attention so that an accomplice can steal your luggage!
If you lose your luggage
Baggage delivery is one of the most common problems in airports, especially in large ones like Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa. Your bags may be delayed or lost. However, Consumer Protection Association highlights that half-an-hour delay is enough to ask for compensation, but you need to report the loss of your luggage first.
First of all, the traveler has to go to the "Lost and found" Office at the airport to report damaged or lost luggage; you'll have to show your ticket, your boarding card and baggage receipt, and fill an ad hoc form.
If you are away from home, after 24 hours most airlines have to make sure that you have the necessities you need to survive while your bag is being located. If luggage is not returned within 48 hours you can ask for a monetary compensation. You have to produce your claim to the national airline company within 3 days in case of damage and within 14 days for luggage loss. For long range flights, it's 7 or 21 days respectively according to the cause.
Other Safety Tips
Visit www.travel.state.gov to:
- Enroll in the “Smart Traveler Program”
- Read the “Worldwide Caution” issued July 26, 2011
- Read the Worldwide “Travel Alert” issued October 11, 2011
- Obtain “Country Information” for the country in which you’ll study and those that you might visit
- Read “Tips for Traveling Abroad” and to learn the role of the U.S. embassy or consulate in a crisis
Monitor local and international news sources. Be informed. Be alert and sensitive to your surroundings. Report any irregularities to the authorities. Avoid demonstrations. Heed local authorities. Keep a low profile as a U.S. American. If you break local law, you are subject to local penalty.
Do not operate a motor vehicle while abroad. Road rules and etiquette and liability laws and customs are different.
Do not take risks abroad that you would not take at home.
Making Photocopies of your documents: If you haven’t done so already, make photocopies of all of your important documents now, and keep copies separately from the original documents in your housing.