TODAY   |  May 31, 2013

Is nothing sacred? Pickpockets target Vatican tourists

You might think the Vatican is one place where visitors would behave themselves, but pickpocketing is a major concern for many eager tourists visiting Rome. NBC’s Michelle Kosinski reports on the crime that has tourists and guides fed up.

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>>> if you are planning a big trip to europe this summer you may come to london and perhaps check out the sites of rome and might think the vatican is a place where visitors would behave themselves but lately a particular sin has been causing a big stir there. nbc's michelle kosinski has the story. good morning to you.

>> reporter: hi, savannah. it is pick-pocketing and that's why you see people walking around with their bags like this and every tourist we asked, have you been pick-pocketed responded "not yet." still it's not something even they would expect inside the vatican . is nothing sacred? really?

>> if they don't do something, it would be a big deal so have to do some more control inside the sistine chapel .

>> reporter: some vatican guides are fed up even considering going on strike because so many tourists are being pick-pocketed, even here. eager visitors ripped off as they stare up in awe at masterpieces, the ceiling of the sistine chapel .

>> it may be a little distracted, that's the point and they're pushed and shoved everywhere and so if a pickpocket goes into your purse you don't feel it.

>> reporter: some guides feel way too many people are let into the vet khan, the crowds some 20,000 to 30,000 each day, a feast for a thief. today we are tourists. i have my casually opened purse and a cheap wallet that i'm going to stick right here and see what happens. theft in italy jumped in 2011 , muggings up 24%. tv show did an expose in naples putting cameras inside pockets and purses, you see it happen. you said you think it's getting worse.

>> yes, because you know, people, there are many, many people unfortunately who are without a job.

>> reporter: students from tennessee's king university were targeted in rome multiple times the day they arrived.

>> i was just standing there with my bag like this and i looked down and it was unzipped a little bit and then my entire wallet was gone.

>> reporter: and your passport.

>> and my passport.

>> we were here for not even an hour and a guy from our group had his cell phone stolen.

>> what has the world come to kind of thing where people have to steal, you know, in the church of god .

>> reporter: that said, we hit some of the worst pick-pocket hotbeds in rome , hoards of people, the notorious number 64 bus, my wallet practically hanging out and purse wide open and not a soul in the eternal city fell for it. and nobody officially wanted to talk to us about this. nobody would give us any statistics, not the police, the vatican police or the vatican , although a vatican spokesman said crimes like pick-pocketing are unavoidable and the vatican is no worse than any other tourist site.

>> no, michelle but maybe they should stop by confession, one- stop shopping . thank you so much.