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Lesson 33

                      Thieves Beware : People See You

                                       Text A

    Each year car theft costs us about
300 million, and burglary sets us back by another 150 million.
    Yet the police reckon that one car in five is left unlocked, or with windows open, or with expensive goods temptingly on display. It is estimated that over 60% of homes still do not have any window locks (although that's better than a few years ago when it was nearer 90% ) .
    These facts illustrate a basic truth.


    The truth is that most criminals are on the lookout for a soft touch. They are not hardened "professionals" who set out with particular targets in mind, but young, inexperienced or unsophisticated.
    What they're looking for is a house or car that will let them get in, get what they want and get away quickly.
    In short, an easy opportunity.


    Many of these opportunities can just as easily be removed. By fitting and using locks. Or by taking other very simple precautions.
    And if we can foil small-time criminals with modest individual effort and cost, how much more could be achieved by working together in Neighbourhood Watches ( there are forty-two thousand already)? Or in other local activities involving police, councils, businesses, voluntary groups and schools?


    More radically still, what might we see if more systematic effort was made to design anti-crime features into cars, houses and estates?
    This is not a pipe dream: it's already happening.
    Take housing. There is a growing awareness of how the design, layout and construction of houses and estates can affect the incidence of crime.
    Many police forces are now appointing specialist architectural liaison officers in their crime prevention departments.


    A new British Standard has been published. Some builders are now building security features  into new housing projects.
    Or cars. The Institute for Consumer Ergonomics at I,oughborough University carried out a research project into automobile security which was presented to the motor industry at a special Home Office conference.
    Some manufacturers are now fitting better security on the production line. Some magazine road tests regularly report on the subject.


    About 95% of crirnes are against property rather than people. But, not surprisingly, it is the remaining 5% --assault, mugging and rape, for example-that causes the most comment and concern.
    But even thugs look for easy opportunities. The dark alley,
the pensioner who doesn't check callers' credentials, the child who accepts a lift from a stranger. These can be reduced by personal and community action.


    For example, because all of us feel vulnerable sometimes, police and other experts have devised simple, sensible precaution which individuals can adopt to help minimise the risk of being
attacked.

 

                                            Text B

    You can't miss the neighbourhood watch people, or "old auntie". as they are sometimes called. As in neighbourhoods all over Beijing. they wear red armbands and sit on small chairs in lances off Wenjia Street downtown.
    If you are a stranger there and your behaviour arouses their suspicion, you are likely to be stopped for questions, such as whom you are looking for and where you are from.


    You needn't worry about theft if you live in the area and forget to lock the door of your house; the aunties will lock it during their daily inspection tour past every house in -the community. But remember, a severe criticism of your carelessness will follow.
    Their presence may be one reason the 426-household community with about 1,200 residents has been free from theft, burglary and other criminal acts for almost 10 years.


    Every community member is encouraged by their neighbourhood residents' committee to remain alert for possible theft and to contribute an individual effort to the maintenance of a safe environment.
    The Wenjia Street neighbourhood residents' committee runs a public security committee together with committees on mediation, publie health, and women's affairs.


    " They all look inconspicuous, yet their functions are great," cammented a public order official from the Ministry of Public Security.
    The official's comment is understandable. since the neighbourhood committees have proved to be an effective approach to maintaining public order and ensuring public safety at a time when professional police are in short supply.
    In the Wenjia public security committee, for instance, in addition to six directors, there are 138 residents who act as amateur police for the neighbourhood.


    Except the six directors, who receive 45 yuan monthly from he government, the neighbours work voluntarily. They form a small but sensitive security network in their community.
    Among the 138, 54 are retired workers or older housewives, whose job is to take turns guarding the 42 courtyards of houses in the community.


    According to Ran Yuzhen, the committee director, the whole community has been divided into 35 groups, with 62 people appointed to be group leaders.
    " Every community member is involved in the security work," said Ran.
    Safety is maintained in a number of ways.
    First, patrols by professional police.


    Second, daily inspection tours around the community by six committee directors.
    The directors keep a log of their observations while inspecting the neighbourhood.
    Third, guarding of courtyards and houses by the retirees and housewives.
    Fourth, installation of burglar-proof locks.
    "Safety is possible with the participation o# every member in the community involved in the security work," said Ran.

                           Additional Information

    Lu Xiuli was not boasting when he said he was a top-notch policeman. "1 catch thieves. I know their tricks and always make a big haul. "
    Lu. 42, works with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Municipal
Public Security Bureau of Guilin in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. He heads a special task force to catch thieves and pickpockets on crowded buses and other public places.


    "The thieves are very much afraid of me," he said. "Whenever they recognize
me, they run off as a rat fears a cat. "
    With his long experience, Lu can recall from memory the names and nicknames of more than 1,000 thieves or pickpockets in the city. He can list their physical characteristics and knows their haunts and tricks of the trade. He always carries a small notebook with information about major suspects. This has helped him spot them when they are on the prowl.


    Typical pickpockets are unemployed urban youth aged between 18 and 25, Lu said. They have grown up and are quite independent of their parents. But they do not yet have their own families. And they do not care much about the consequences of their activities.
    Their targets are usually tourists or travelling traders from outside the city, not only because these people often carry a lot of money but also they are only transients who know little about local conditions. Thieves usually avoid locals for fear that they may come across them some other day and, even if they were not caught in the act, they may be recognized sooner or later.


    "I have learned to spot pickpockets on a crowded bus by the distinctive ways they move," Lu said. Many pickpockets on a bus choose their targets when passengers expose the location of their wallet as they take out money to pay the fare. The pickpocket edges towards his victim asking, people to make way as if he wanted to get off the bus. But he stops next to the target and raising one hand to grip the overhead bar, slips the other into the person's pocket and deftly removes the money using only index and middle fingers.


    Pickpockets are usually not dangerous criminals, but sometimes Lu has to fight them face to face in a life and death struggle. Because he has shown no mercy in dealing with thieves, many of them are waiting for a chance to take their revenge. Some even threatened him. "Don't be too harsh on us or sooner or later we will settle with you," warned one.


    But Lu is not to be intimidated. "I'm a people's policeman and will never recoil in fear before enemies," he said. "To protect the people's interests, I am ready to shed my blood and even sacrifice my life. " In his nine years of police career, Lu scuffled with criminals 29 times and was injured three times.