Dec 03 2011
It was over before it began: a motorbike’s engine goes down a gear, I lean back towards my open car door to let the bike pass, the driver grabs my shoulder bag and I scream — teaching my two children, still in the back seat of the car, a few choice swear words as my bag sails away in slow motion. Another bike appears immediately with two men who indicate that they’ll chase; I think there’s a chance I’ll get the bag back so I wait, along with the crowd who somewhat reassuringly have appeared in response to my yelling. A third biker, who also gave chase, returns saying he couldn’t keep up.
Of course, the second bike doesn’t return, and it seems obvious now that they were part of the scam, giving chase in order to first give their guy cover, or make the snatch if he misses, and second reassure others that there’s no need to give chase as they have it covered.
It could happen anywhere, but this snatch and grab occurred on a quiet suburban street in Sanur, Bali. Getting robbed, I think, can be a little like there being a recession; it’s only a recession when you lose your job, and the neighbourhood is only going to the dogs when you get robbed.
I’ve heard of snatch and grab robberies going on in Bali occasionally for the more than three years we’ve been here, but anecdotally I’ve been hearing of more this past year. It makes sense; Bali is booming, not everyone is making money from the boom and — well, I’ll stop the layperson analysis right there. I don’t feel any less safe than I did before the robbery — which could have resulted in something much worse than a bruise on the arm — but it’s a reminder that it pays to be vigilant.
This doesn’t mean needing to be paranoid, but a few things I think I’ll do from now on:
* Wear a backpack instead of a shoulder bag, despite the fashion pain this causes me (travellers would do well to consider using a moneybelt instead of a bag, fairly standard advice);
* Make sure I leave at home anything that I don’t need. I was carrying an HSCB security device that could easily have been stashed at home, along with a few credit cards that I needn’t have had in my wallet;
* I’ll leave things I don’t need but could on the spur of the moment in the car glovebox. I was a bit sad to lose all my loyalty cards — I was up to a free cream bath at Glo after more than a year! a year! — and I also lost my Cozy vouchers, sniff.
* I’ll keep plugging on with my Indonesian — it helped enormously with the police. If you’re travelling, even just spending a few hours learning key words can help you out a lot in a tricky situation; and
* I’ll carry paper books. My Kindle was lost, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the reader. I’m a convert. But I’ll stick to paper when I’m out, I think.
I went to make a police report at the station on the bypass road in Sanur near Mercy 2. I explained what happened, and that I needed a report. I certainly wasn’t expecting them to catch anyone, given my description of all three culprits extended to one of them wearing either a red helmet or a red jacket. Yeah, that reporter’s astute eye came in real handy.
I could make a “lost items” report, or a “criminal” report, they said, even though I had explained I was robbed. “The criminal report will take two hours,” they said, seemingly expecting me to go for the lost report instead. A mixture of indignation and perhaps misplaced civic duty — shouldn’t it be filed as a crime SO THAT PEOPLE KNEW!! — led me to insist on the criminal report. My Indonesian is bad, but I managed it all without English; I don’t know what ordinary tourists do as they definitely weren’t receptive when I asked about speaking to tourist police, who are based in various stations in Bali.
The process did, indeed, take two hours, with exactly the same information being punched up twice on different computers, in rooms with broken chairs, cigarette smoke and slouching but solicitous officers who fed the kids rambutans. At no stage was I asked for money — though they did know I had none.
The next day, at the bank, there were nervous chuckles all round when I presented the report and asked to get a replacement card. The teller pointed to a line and said the police had made a mistake. “Oh god,” I thought. “Don’t make me go back!”
“They have written that you were killed, that you’re dead,” the teller said.
“Oh,” I said. I wondered how I should explain that I was still alive. “Look! I signed the report, so I can’t be dead!”
More chuckles as the teller made the necessary change in pen and asked me to sign the amendment.
Amusing — but sort of a reminder that I was indeed lucky that all I lost was a few things and nothing more.
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