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Lebanon’s Monetary Crisis Forces Thieves to Change Their Tactics

Lebanon’s Monetary Crisis Forces Thieves to Change Their Tactics

Thursday, 9 January, 2020 - 12:45
Demonstrators hold loaves of bread that read we are only against hunger - REUTERS
Beirut - Sanaa al-Jack

It is hard to find a Lebanese home without a metal safe to store money and precious belongings, especially these days, as the home robbery rate rises. However, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, a woman said safes alone do not make you feel secure.

“If the thief was armed, he could force us to open the safe and take everything. So, we are looking for ways to safely hide our money in the house," she stressed.

In light if the current dire economic situation, more people are buying safes fearing the rise of robberies. Even public institutions and places of worship are not safe. Two months ago, unidentified robbers stole the safe of an office for the ''Electricity of Lebanon'.' Also, a donation box of a church got recently stolen.

Some thefts are minor and spontaneous, like the incident that happened around two weeks ago, when a man stole some shawarma from a restaurant. The owner stopped his employees from chasing the man, saying that he was just trying to feed his family. Others, however, are major and sophisticated. In a village in the south, over one hundred thousand dollars were stolen from a house equipped with cameras, and the thieves did not leave a trace.

On the street, women are especially vulnerable to theft, as thieves see in them easy prey; voice notes warning women about this and recommending that they refrain from wearing jewellery are spreading. It is worth noting though, that auto-theft, notoriously common in the Beqaa, is declining because of the difficulty of selling the cars or receiving a ransom in exchange for their return; in light of the shortage of liquidity.

Instead, motorcycle theft is on rise because they are easier to sell and useful for the thieves.

Armed robberies of pharmacies are also on the rise. One pharmacist, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat says that he: “was forced to install a metal door with a gap at the pharmacy’s entrance, passing medicine on to clients through this gap at night. I also have a gun by my side that I hope I'll never have to use.

According to the Internal Security Forces’ figure, there were 1573 thefts recorded in 2019, 240 looting and 668 pickpockets, an increase of 13.1% as compared to the previous year. However, this rate is better than it was between 2014 and 2017. The rate of theft is 131 per month in 2019. While it reached 190 thefts per month in 2014.

The security authorities believe: “The rate of theft is very acceptable in light of the conditions in which the Lebanese are living under, and there is no need for panic. It is not true that poverty causes theft, even if it is an important factor."

Meanwhile, security forces pointed out that the speed of the security forces’ response and apprehension of the perpetrators limits this phenomenon; "the gangs responsible for stealing pharmacies have been arrested, as have some of the auto theft gangs. Lebanon is not in the midst of chaos because deterrence is quick to curb any criminal act.”

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