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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Increase in bag thefts recorded

Increase in bag thefts recorded

Increase in bag thefts recorded

Numbers conservative: observers.

NEW Phnom Penh Municipal Police figures indicate a slight increase in the number of bag-snatchings this year, though several observers said the recorded total was far fewer than the actual number of cases, a fact they said underscored the lack of law enforcement attention being devoted to the problem.

The report, a midyear review released July 16, states that there were 28 bag-snatchings in the first six months of 2009, up from 22 in the same period last year.

But Lim Mony, women's programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said that statistic grossly underrepresented the prevalence of street crime in the capital.

"You read about robberies and bag-snatchings in the newspapers every day," she said. "The police report is far different from the truth."

Chris Chipp, an independent security consultant based in Phnom Penh, said the numbers were likely "pretty conservative", noting that the vast majority of robberies go unreported.

"The expat community figures that nobody's going to do anything because the law enforcement infrastructure is basically nonexistent after 5 in the evening, and the Cambodians won't report to the cops because they'd have to pay the cops to do something," he said.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said evidence of an increase, however slight, could discourage tourism, and he called on the police to do more to curtail petty street crime.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth could not be reached for comment Monday.

National Police Chief Neth Savoeun said officials were considering measures to prevent a further increase in bag-snatchings, including enhancing the security presence in central Phnom Penh.

Chipp, who does not work in partnership with local law enforcement, said this strategy would prove effective only if officers were better-trained.
"They have to start training the police properly - not just to be a collection agency out there putting money into their own pockets every time they pull somebody over," he said.

Lim Mony said she agreed that the security presence left something to be desired, as officers spent "all their time taking money for traffic violations".