CCTV Catches Organized Thieves in BGC Stealing From Customers at High End Restaurants
Article by: Gutch Gutierrez
When in Manila, there are different kinds of thieves. There are the regular pickpockets, the slashers, the hold-uppers, the house burglars, and the thiefies, for example. (Read about thiefies here: http://www.wheninmanila.com/thiefie-thief-selfie-selfies-taken-by-thieves-who-steal-phones-or-gadgets-update/)
Have you ever wondered how professional thieves do it, though – the ones who work in groups? How can you protect yourself from these people?
After reviewing the CCTV footage of a theft, I came up with what I think is the step-by-step procedure of how this set of thieves operate when in Manila. Now as a disclaimer, this is all mere speculation from what I observed from the footage; not to mention my “how-criminal-minds-work” education extends only up to movies, videogames, Batman and Sherlock Season 3.
The Stealing Stops at the Door
STEP 1: The Spotter Marks Item
The Spotter looks out for valuable items, such as bags and laptops that are not guarded by their owners. In fairness, the laptop bag was in a “secure” corner under a table surrounded by people, so you can just imagine how easy it would be for them to snatch a handbag mindlessly left on a table.
STEP 2: The Spotter Makes the Call
When the Spotter finds the target, he calls the rest of his Crew on standby to start the theft.
STEP 3: The Lifters Close In and Move In Position
The Spotter moves to watch for security as the Lifters close in. As you see in the pic, they hide under the guise of people busy on their phones. Now, given that there were 3 different sets of people on the tables surrounding the bag, they played with the idea that a group will assume that person on phones are surely part of the other table.
This is exactly what happened when, after we found out that that the bag was gone, the ones seated closest to the thieves from the different tables said “Kala namin kasama niyo! (We thought they were part of your group!)”
STEP 4: The Lifters Take the Marked Item
They were on their phones for around 5 minutes standing by the marked item and slowly moving it in a position where they could bring it along with them; in this case, it was a stroller bag so they rolled it. There were several times when they would crouch a bit, to move the item slowly I assume, and get back to their phone call.
This happened in Uncle Cheffy, Burgos Circle, a pretty decent location with a very high security presence compared to most of Metro Manila. That being said, no number of security officers will be enough to stop every crime that happens. Remember this when you’re out with friends. Be vigilant, take extra precaution and never assume safety.
STEP 5: Crew Calls/Waits for Escape Vehicle
I’m not sure whether they already have a taxi on standby or they just stood there waiting for one. I assume it is the former, though, because the escape to safety is the step any thief would not want to leave to chance.
STEP 6: Crew drives away in Escape Vehicle
The lifter carried the bag on his chest to obscure the view of witnesses. They then enter the taxi and depart to the tune of Smooth Criminal.
How to Prevent Theft
Growing up in an environment where we didn’t have a lot of valuables, we took good care of whatever we had My mother never had much, but she never had anything stolen either. She always kept her hand bag in front of her and was keenly aware of her surroundings. Remembering her pragmatism, I believe these three things would help prevent future theft of this type:
1. NEVER ASSUME SAFETY – It’s easy to put our guard down when we’re comfortably with our friends and family. But we never know when thieves may be watching us become careless about our valuables. I’ve heard countless stories of people who stood up to get an order/went to the bathroom/patted the passing dog only to find their handbag/laptop/mobile phone/boyfriend stolen from them right under their very noses. It always ends with a regretful “I thought it was safe! It was only for a few seconds!”
It only takes a few seconds to steal something we worked years for.
2. DIY SECURITY – In the words of Batman, the patron saint of all badass geeks, “Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot“. Now, disregarding thieves who steal 50B pesos and then some, the SOP of this type is to prey on the careless, the least resistant, and the weak. I believe that once we take action to increase security (like locking the laptop bag to a chair with a Travelon bag or to the table leg with a wire combination lock from the Jap 88php store, for example), we’re less likely to be marked as victims.
3. LEAVE UNNECESSARY VALUABLES AT HOME OR IN THE CAR – Do we really need to bring our iPads, Macbooks and every piece of gadget along with us everywhere? If we don’t, I highly suggest leaving them at home or in the trunk of the car. That also goes for how much cash we have in our wallets, how much important (and irreplaceable) data we are carrying, etc.
I think the saying goes “Don’t put all your eggs in a single basket.” The more valuables we carry on our person, the higher the risk of losing all of them in a single event.
We’ve pretty much moved on. We grieved, learned as much as we could, replaced what was lost, ate some a lot of chocolate and it’s business as usual. You can read more about some of the things we’ve learned from all this on my blog: http://manonajourney.com/2014/01/17/the-stealing-stops-at-the-door/
My hope is that no experience in our lives is ever wasted. Even from a loss, lessons can always be gained and shared.
And those can never be stolen from us when in Manila.
Article by: Gutch Gutierrez