Wednesday August 19, 2009 The Star Online
Snatch thieves now targeting lady drivers
By YIP YOKE TENG
SNATCH thieves lurking on the streets are no longer only eyeing pedestrians and have taken to pouncing on motorists, especially women. Of late, several cases of women drivers falling prey to snatch thefts even in their own cars have been brought to the attention of StarMetro. Word has also been going around among offices and communities, while emails and social networking sites are helping the news spread like wildfire. The culprits, usually a motorcyclist and a pillion rider, tail the driver and smash the car window to snatch items placed inside the car. The attacks are usually launched when the car is stationary by the road side or at traffic light junctions. Sudden attack: Women drivers should not let their guard down even after locking their cars as there have been cases of ‘smash-and-snatch”. For one victim, the mishap occurred at Alam Damai, Cheras, last month. “I usually put my bag on the floor while driving, as my friends have told me about cases of robbers smashing windows to snatch bags. “But that day, after answering a phone call, I put my bag on the seat and in a short distance of only two traffic light junctions, my car window was smashed and before I could sort out what had happened, the two riders on the motorcycle sped off with my bag,” she said. She added that when she was at the police station, a woman was lodging a report over a similar incident. Another victim said she had a shock when she sent her friend home to Pandan Perdana in January. She stopped the car in front of her friend’s house while waiting for the latter’s family to open the gate. Attraction: Handbags placed on car seats attract the attention of snatch theives, who are likely to launch their attack when the car is stationary. “After waiting for about five minutes, two youths on a motorcycle rode past us and made a U-turn to approach my car. We did not suspect anything amiss, thinking that they were visiting my friend’s brother, but, to our horror, they smashed the car window and snatched my friend’s handbag. “Everything happened in the blink of an eye and my friend also suffered minor cuts from the shattered glass. The incident has left me paranoid whenever I am driving, especially at night or at traffic light junctions. “I learned the hard way that even though I was in my car, it is still not safe,” she said. She also related another incident that happened to a friend, who was attacked while driving her child home. Not only did the crooks took her valuables, they even stabbed the toddler in in the thigh before zooming off! Another case occurred in Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya, on July 13 but this case involved a dog. The driver had parked her car in front of her god daughter’s house for her maid to pick up something when a motorcycle approached, smashed the car window and took her bags that were on the seat. Evidence: The broken windscreen showing proof how a female motorist from Cheras had a narrow escape from the hands of four snatch thieves. She was distraught as her beloved Yorkshire Terrier was in the bag, but fortunately a Good Samaritan returned it to her. “I am now very cautious, I lock my car whenever I am in it and I don’t know how else to do to prevent these incidents. I am still in shock until today,” she said. The culprits do not always hit the side windows. A victim from Cheras related that a group of four motorcyclists attempted to break her windscreen with a helmet at a traffic light junction near Pandan Jaya but ran off with a fierce stare at her when the glass did not break. Apart from the straightforward smash-and-snatch method, word has spread over the Internet about other cunning tactics used by the perpetrators. One widely circulated email has it that some culprits had acted on the pretext of a wounded person seeking help, in order to rob the driver of their belongings the moment they wound down the window. Another email warns motorists against driving over newspapers scattered on the street as nails could have been placed underneath to puncture tyres while the culprits wait in the dark to strike when the driver pulls over. Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Arjunaidi Mohamed said while there had been several snatch theft cases involving female drivers, there was no need for panic. “Many of the cases are caused by carelessness. They should never leave anything on the car seat as that attracts the culprits, even though there may be nothing inside,” he said. He said snatch thefts involving women drivers made up only 2% of the 6,000-odd criminal cases reported in Petaling Jaya this year, which was a reduction compared with the same period last year. “Drivers have to be vigilant at all times and should not panic no matter what happens, so that they know how to respond to a situation,” he said, adding that if the driver was alert, she could have shielded herself from harm, read the plate number, called the police or gone to a safe place. He cited a video clip he was shown recently, of a man smashing a car window about 10 times without breaking the glass, and the lady driver just sat still staring blankly at the crook. “If the woman had not panicked, she could have driven off to a safe place by then,” he said. When asked about rumours on the other tricks used, he said there had not been any reported cases of robbers faking injuries in his district. “But the drivers should be alert when they discover that their tyres are suddenly flat or when their cars are hit from the rear, as these can be tactics to distract the victim’s attention,” he added. He added that the police had been holding regular meetings to educate the public, but organisations could also call the police to request for one.