Trips and Tales: Part 122
It pays to have street smarts – but acquiring them in a foreign environment can be little uncomfortable. There’s no shortcut to experience, and trying to fake it may broadcast your naiveté, ironically making you seem more of a potential victim. There have been studies on the subject of presenting certain behaviours (or not) to minimise the chances of being targeted by thieves of various types and dubious “professions”.
From what I’ve read and heard, it seems to boil down to this: behave like a victim and someone will be only too happy to treat you like one. How do victims behave? Well, by all accounts they present themselves as nervous, vulnerable, insecure, passive, suggestible and easily dominated.
Obvious external signs of intoxication and/or confusion are unspoken invitations to be taken advantage of. It’s worth bearing mind, that crooks (as distinguished from out-and-out thugs) are generally not looking for a staged fight or boxing match: what they are after is an easy take without too much trouble. If a mugger wanted to work hard, he’d get a job, right?
I read about the scamming and exploitation of tourists in China – though it’s worth pointing out that Beijing itself is regarded as a relatively safe city. In one instance a traveller was scammed by a bogus taxi driver who, instead of a hotel; took the victim to an isolated area and demanded ten times the agreed fair. This, in front of the “taxi” man’s less than savoury mates, what could you do but hand over the cash and hope to get away with your hide intact? That’s after getting yourself into the that situation in the first place.
It’s a tricky one: the second hand car market in Beijing is shady, and criminals are known to repaint vehicles to resemble the legitimate black cabs that are license-registered within the city’s database. Crime by bogus taxi-drivers within this safe city is still prevalent enough to be recognised as “a problem” by Beijing police. The consequences for victims can sadly be more than the loss of a money belt: assaults occur, women have been molested, and raped. I recently read an article where a Chinese woman (it happens to locals too) hospitalised herself by jumping out of a moving taxi rather than meet an uncertain fate at the end of the ride – once the intentions of the driver had been revealed. The inference is that a lot is flying under the police radar. Take care.
A spokesperson for the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport is on record as stating that: “It’s very unsafe for passengers, especially women, to take such cars at night or early in the morning”. Horrifically still, it seems that often, the only time a bogus cab is revealed is when a crime perpetrated via one is reported.
In another instance, a tourist who put a good deal more faith in a local woman than perhaps he should have ended up being led on a song and dance, resulting in him paying over the odds for meal and a massage (!) in some back street. That was lucky by comparison, even humorous but the consequences could have been significantly worse.
In both cases, the common factor appears to be the giving-up by the victim of their autonomy within a given situation, resulting in their isolation and exploitation. It’s basic animalistic behaviour on the part of the aggressor: separate the victim from the herd and get them at a disadvantage: then strike. Even better if the target can be coerced into freely handing over their trust as well.
More on this next time.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 123) Arrival Beijing #12
[Photo by maltman23]