Petty theft in Beijing stealing the limelight

By Hannah Leung Source:Global Times Published: 2012-4-25 20:00:04

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina
Illustrations: Peter C. Espina

Cars haven't been the only thing making an impression at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, with over 40 cases of theft being reported on Monday. Items stolen include cameras and electronic gadgets belonging to journalists and other attendees of the event. 

Though only verified members of the media were allowed into the show on Monday, many scalpers sold tickets to the public. By paying a small price, thieves walked away with a large profit. It's an awful feeling when you frantically flip through your bag, hoping to find a missing item but instead only discover used tissues and old dental floss.

In Beijing, these petty crimes of theft are pervasive and consistent. A large number of my friends have had their iPhones stolen at a popular club near the Workers Stadium. At a venue where crowding is guaranteed, it's hard to keep track of small belongings. You also assume that the person talking or pushing past you has a motive unrelated to robbing you, the latter dealing a blow to the ego and wallet. I imagine the auto show was a place where patrons focused on engines and scantily-clad models, not pickpockets.

So, what can we learn from these thefts? On a personal level, we should always keep an eye out for our belongings, even at supposedly secure events. This is easier said than done, as I've left my personal belongings unattended many times with predictable results.

A quick rundown of items I've had stolen includes my wallet, credit cards (and their replacements), ID, keys, an iTouch (after I had just labored over creating the ultimate rainy-day playlist) and so on. Things of small monetary value but great practical function have also been stolen. My umbrella went missing a few days ago during torrential rain, leaving me soaked to the bone as I ventured outside.  

On a structural level, Beijing needs to either install more or better use existing surveillance cameras and other devices to improve security. Guards should be trained to prevent and stop thefts from happening. In early May last year, a thief broke into the Forbidden City's Palace Museum and made off with valuable artifacts dating back centuries.

This was the Forbidden City - the heart Beijing and a heavily-guarded, iconic landmark. It's hard to imagine thieves walking out with a portrait of President Barack Obama from the White House. Unless you're working with the team from Mission Impossible, it'd be difficult to sneak out a trinket or two from the Louvre Museum in Paris.

If a thief can carry out a robbery at a top site of historical importance in Beijing, how can we expect security to be tight elsewhere? Perhaps only retail stores, where every item of clothing has a magnetic security tag attached, have the right idea. While we can't fix miniature anti-theft sirens to our electronics, we can do our best to remain attentive.

Would anyone really try to steal from clothing store Zara? The guards and security cameras would track you down faster than a tea-swilling Forbidden City security guard.

Posted in: Twocents-Opinion

blog comments powered by Disqus