10 Tips to Avoid Thieves, Pickpockets in Hong Kong

Just when you think that your belongings are relatively safer in Hong Kong, think again. Police observed a rise in theft cases as the economy starts to pick up and shoppers head to malls and department stores.

The number of pick pocketing cases in the first 11 months of 2009 increased to 341, up 22 percent from 279 within the same period last year. Also recorded was an increase in the number of snatching, shoplifting and theft from vehicles. Therefore whenever you see a sticker that warns you to keep an eye on your belongings – public washrooms, department stores and public transport – be aware that those areas are frequented by people who want to make money by taking other people’s valuables.

So what’s my Christmas present to all people coming to Hong Kong? Tips on helping you avoid becoming a victim of theft in the city.

  1. Pay attention to your belongings when taking a crowded escalator in a mall or subway
  2. Pay same amount of attention when taking a crowded elevator
  3. Never leave your belongings unattended when trying out clothes at the fitting room (or maybe someone taking your photos!)
  4. Ignore touts or people in the street who offer you cheap watches, currency exchange services or nice suits
  5. Snatching usually happens at night when a victim is alone, so you know what to avoid doing
  6. Be watchful of suspicious people surrounding you while you’re selecting merchandise or jewelry products
  7. As a newcomer in the city, you’ll be spending lots of time looking around at the airport; don’t forget your bags
  8. Simple Cantonese: Gaau Meng Ah! (Help!), Cheung Yeah! (Snatcher!). Of course shouting in English is understood
  9. If you’re a victim, call 999 if you can’t find any police officer on the street
  10. Avoid any form of tricks or deceptions especially when you think the offer is so good to be true

I am sure there are places outside of Hong Kong that are more notorious for these types of petty crime, so I would not necessarily advise on NOT showing off expensive jewelry or getting a “slash-free” handbag. But it always helps to be vigilant to deter any criminal activity.

A police inspector advises locals and visitors to “wear bags in front, rather than at the back” as a precaution, but such preventive moves may come at the expense of being fashionable. There is a reason why a backpack is named as such; defying the definition doesn’t result in attractive looks. But you’d rather have a fashionably awkward bag than have no bag at all.

In my opinion occurrences of petty crime are pretty negligible and they mostly happen to careless, gullible folks. Don’t be like them and you’ll have a pleasant shopping experience in Hong Kong.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Photo credit: cartinafinland.fi

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