Little is being done to help reduce the number of petty crimes. With the police force understaffed and underpaid, there is no incentive to tackle the problem. There are no funds for an extensive CCTV network, street-lighting system or regular patrols of troublesome areas. But there are measures that could be easily implemented, by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or local business owners, with police approval. The cost would be minimal with potentially significant benefits:
• Signage: A similar rise in bag theft in Bangkok last year was stemmed when bilingual warning signs were placed in areas with previous incidents. Simple awareness of the danger, not to wear handbags within easy reach of the street, to avoid unlit lanes at night, can avert many cases of theft and injury.
• Media: The free tourist maps of Phnom Penh, and ad-heavy brochures and freesheets on what to do, see and eat, could include warnings on areas to avoid at night and how to secure belongings against would-be thieves. The official Cambodia tourism site could include a multilingual section on crime and safety rather than continue to avoid the issue.
• Local intelligence: As tourists and expats are often reminded by drivers, tuk-tuks and motos are omnipresent in popular areas. They also have “beats”, streets and corners they return to. In terms of local intelligence, no one is better placed to keep an eye open for suspicious activity. Except for the tiny fraction that is complicit in the problem, security is in their own interest. With so many streets already being watched, it might be useful to make use of this resource, by asking them to report their findings to police.
• Hotline. A telephone number or a website could be set up where people can report thefts, suspicious activity and suspected collusion.