Rising Crime Rate Worries Expats

RIYADH, 1 February 2008 — A series of daytime robberies, attacks, car thefts and purse-snatchings committed by organized crime groups in certain areas of Riyadh have alarmed expatriates and citizens alike.

“Even those working for media and government agencies are not safe,” said Mojib ibn Raza Siddiquee, whose car was stolen on Tuesday from the parking lot of his office. Siddiquee, who works for the Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), lodged a complaint with the local police.

On Wednesday afternoon, Muzaffar Pathan, branch manager of Al-Kabeer Co., foiled a daring daytime robbery by three youths as he was returning home with his wife. A young miscreant entered his building lobby, snatched the keys of his car and ran down the stairs.

Muzaffar followed the criminal and overpowered him while the thief’s two accomplices were waiting outside his house in a Mazda. After a brief brawl, the two thieves fled in their waiting vehicle (plate number: ya ta laam 907) parked a little further away.

A complaint has been lodged with the local police station, but the thieves are still at large. “I am seriously contemplating relocating myself to a safer city of the Kingdom or even outside,” said Ashif A. Bhatti, a computer professional, whose house was burgled during the holidays this month. The cell phone of Ashif’s son was also snatched by a group of young boys in a separate incident.

“The car of a Pakistani national was snatched just in front of my restaurant in the Wazarat district on Wednesday afternoon,” said Bilal of Lahory Khabey Restaurant.

Nabeel Iqbal Khan, a Pakistani professional, has more stories to narrate and more complaints against the police, who have failed to recover SR30,000 worth of gold and jewelry stolen from Khan’s house a few weeks back.

“It is increasingly difficult to withdraw cash from an ATM and even move around in the city,” he said.

In another incident on Wednesday night, Saquib Manzar, a student of the International Indian School-Riyadh (IISR), together with his friend, was mobbed by a group of young boys with ill intentions.

Thanks to the intervention of a few shopkeepers and some kind passers-by the two teenagers managed to escape. The incident took place in the posh crime-free Rawdah district here.

At the same night in Rawdah, a group of thugs attacked two poor workers and tried to snatch their wallets.

“When the workers strongly refused to hand over their belongings to the criminals, they attacked them with rods and daggers, inflicting injuries all over their bodies,” said Sheikh Ahmed Al-Salman, their sponsor.

“Western expatriates are a bit safe because they are staying in secured compounds,” said a Western executive who didn’t want his name published. He also blamed police inaction for the rising crime rate.

The Riyadh police do not provide crime statistics in a regular and orderly fashion. While police do release crime reports, data that would allow for the identification of trends are not provided to the public or the media.

However, public discourse and newspaper articles in recent years reflect a popular view that crime is increasing in Saudi Arabia’s capital.

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