Crime in Nice
Located on the southeastern coast of France, Nice is a go-to Mediterranean destination, drawing in roughly 4 million visitors every year. The tourist boom has fueled the city’s infrastructure, making its airport the third busiest in the nation and catapulting its hotel industry to the second largest in France.
While the city has a fairly good reputation for safety, it’s important to keep your guard up. Crime isn’t just a nighttime issue; it happens around the clock. Approximately 33,000 criminal incidents are reported each year, ranging from petty theft to more serious offenses. So, whether you’re out and about in broad daylight or exploring the city’s night scene, it pays to stay alert.
In terms of firearms, Nice is relatively calm, especially considering France’s lenient gun laws. Even though the country ranks high in civilian gun ownership compared to other European nations, gun-related crimes in Nice are on the lower end.
Lastly, about the city’s nightlife—prostitution becomes notably visible on the main ‘Promenade des Anglais’ and in the western section of Nice as the sun sets. While it doesn’t pose a direct threat to tourists, these areas are hotspots for other types of crime. So if you find yourself in these neighborhoods after dark, it’s strongly advised to avoid walking alone.
Knowing the local emergency numbers can be life-saving. In France, the general emergency number is 112. For police, it’s 17; medical help, 15; and fire, 18.
As with most cities across Europe, petty crime is not uncommon in Nice. Pickpockets are operating across the city and they tend to target popular tourist locations. Thieves are known to ride around on scooters which will allow them to ride up close enough and snatch your bag, iPhone or watch.
Pickpockets rarely work alone, and often adopt the ‘crush’ technique which involves a member ‘crushing’ against you in a crowded environment whilst another member of the gang reaches for your belongings. When carrying bags/purses, be sure to wear them across the body.
Organized thieves are known to stalk their victims from a safe distance before snatching their bag and making their getaway on an unregistered scooter. The aim of this type of crime is to catch the victim off-guard and they usually grab your bag or jewelry and vanish in a matter of seconds.
Car Door Grab
Nice is also infamous for another kind of street robbery known as the Vol a la Portere, or the Car Door Grab. This usually occurs at traffic lights or in a car park and involves the victim’s car door being forcibly opened and having their valuables snatched. Tourists in rental cars are often the target of this type of crime. On one occasion even the local Mayor had an attempted ‘vol a la portere’ when he was parked on the promenade!
It is not advisable to drive around Nice due to the high degree of traffic and the inability to park; however, if you are driving around Nice, be extra cautious when stopping your vehicle, in particular at red lights. Thieves have been known to pull up alongside your vehicle whilst on a scooter and steal any belongings on show (this even happened to Nice’s mayor!); hence the advice would be to keep all personal belongings out of sight and keep your doors locked at all times.
Theft on Public Transportation
Towards the end of an evening, railway stations can become a criminal hotspot; in particular the West side of the city (Nice – Cannes – Marseille) known for its bad reputation, many of the stations are un-manned and often empty after around 10pm therefore anyone travelling alone would be highly vulnerable.
Pickpockets are very active on the trams/trains and in tourist areas. They operate in groups, usually offering to help you buy a ticket, to distract you and then take what they can.
Here’s a tip from a reader: “If anyone comes up to help you, especially young girls, they are not being friendly at all – I am in Nice on holiday at the moment and one of them offered to ‘help me’ buy my train ticket from the automatic train distributor at the train station. She took my credit card out of my pocket when I boarded the train, within 5 minutes they had tried to withdraw €300 from a bank machine.”
The tramway line connecting to Nice Airport has become a hotbed for pickpockets, particularly targeting travelers. Local news reports indicate that it’s not uncommon for tourists to find themselves at the airport missing not just personal items but, alarmingly, their passports as well. Similarly, the railway station and packed trains present ripe environments for pickpocketing activities. So whether you’re coming or going, it’s crucial to keep a vigilant eye on your belongings.
According to the French Interior Ministry, the number of crimes committed in the Alpes-Maritimes increased by 28% from 2021 to 2022.
Check out our expert tips about how to avoid crime on the French Riviera, and learn about gassings and home invasions.
Here is a detailed crime analysis, broken down by city: