Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Low Crime Has Its Consequences

Zoologists tell us that animals that live on islands that have no predators are usually unable to defend themselves when a predator is suddenly introduced. A mere rat that gets to the island from a vessel is enough to threaten extinction to an entire rare species.

The same applies to us humans. Singapore is a country with probably the world's lowest crime rate. Its laws are draconian, its government clean and incorruptible and its police force efficient and competent. I've seen how a thief made off with a camera bag of a Singaporean tourist in Spain. The bag contained not just his camera but all the precious photos he's taken. When I carry my backpack in front of me, friends ask me if I've got gold bars in it.

But it's not all that safe in Singapore. Recently, the Singapore Police Force has been waring the public of a rise in pickpocketing cases. There's now a growing trend of foreign pickpockets making a beeline for Singapore. They may stay here for a week or two and the loot they steal covers their trip and all expenses with a lot of money to spare. They usually steal wallets, mobile phones and cameras. Last year, a pickpocket from as far away as Brazil was convicted of theft in a Singapore court.

This morning, at breakfast, something happened that's best recounted with the help of photographs. Someone hurriedly left his table and I noticed something odd and took a quick pic.

Yes, he left his wallet literally standing on the table. I looked to see where the person had gone to and I saw that he was at a drinks stall quite a distance away from his table.

I didn't want to be meddlesome and he might very well be returning to his seat even though leaving one's wallet on the table is a rather unusual thing to do. I kept watch of his wallet from where I was seated just in case someone took it. I also kept an eye on him, for fear that he might just leave the stall and walk out of the food centre. Sure enough, he walked away from the drinks stall and was leaving the food centre when I shouted out to him.  He went back to his table and took his wallet after thanking me sheepishly.

Can such a person survive in Barcelona or Prague or Rome or any of the other major pickpocket cities of the world? I've been on the infamous Bus No. 64 and I took a lot of selfies and photos of my surroundings, much to the annoyance of the pickpockets who naturally didn't want to be photographed. I have photos of them looking shady and annoyed.

Singapore's phenomenally low crime is a testimony to the wisdom of its strict laws and the integrity of its enforcement officers. But every silver lining has its dark cloud and the average Singaporean is more likely to be a victim of petty theft when he is abroad.

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