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Experience with Gypsies?

Does anyone have any first-hand experience with Gypsies? I'm preparing for a trip and it's really bothering me that I'm seeing so many warnings about "thieving gypsies." People actually advocate immediately shouting at anyone approaching who looks Roma to get away from you, especially small children in groups. I started to read these people's physical descriptions of gypsies and they don't at all sound different from how racists in America would describe Black people. These same people recount with glee witnessing police brutality against these people.

Is this just white hysteria and prejudice? Clearly, I am aware that not every single gypsy is a thief, I just want to know if they present a valid threat to my safety. To hear some people tell it, gypsies primarily make their money from stealing. I want to be aware of what to look out for, but I don't at all want to fit the "ugly American" stereotype.
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