Robberies deal blow to image of safe city

Latest raid at Tsim Sha Tsui store underlines need for Hong Kong police to step up cross-border liaison and operate extra patrols in tourist areas

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 6:19am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 6:19am

In the age of cybercrime, identity theft and online scams of one kind or another that prey on people’s emotions and fears, unsophisticated street-level property theft seems to belong in a crime and punishment museum.

If that were the case, police could devote a lot more resources and training to combating hi-tech crime. Alas, it is not, as we are reminded by the brazen daylight smash-and-grab raid on a Tsim Sha Tsui watch and jewellery store on Sunday, in which three masked men are reported to have stolen more than HK$23.5 million worth of valuables and a male employee was injured.

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The community still looks to the force for policing of such old-fashioned crime, using modern aids and liaison with other enforcement bodies, particularly on the mainland.

It is only a week since a double fatal shooting in an alleged family dispute prompted reflection on Hong Kong’s reputation for safe streets, and how easily it could be damaged, especially by lapses in gun control.

Thankfully, no firearms were reported to have been involved in Sunday’s raid, although the use of a knife to intimidate, a hammer to smash a display case and a retractable baton to assault a male employee left little doubt that the robbers were prepared to do what it needed to pull off a successful raid and escape in a getaway vehicle.

It extended a series of high-profile robberies, the most recent in May, when two men snatched HK$5 million worth of jewellery at another store in Tsim Sha Tsui. Half a dozen smash-and-grab raids since March last year have netted thieves HK$70 million in valuables, including a daylight raid in which three Colombians allegedly stole HK$40 million worth from a store in Central.

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That is not consistent with the image of a safe city. The objectives may have been clinical illegal gain, but serious injury and worse may easily result when innocent bystanders get in the way.

Given that the robbers apparently headed across the border after handing their haul to a partner, we trust the local authorities have maintained close cross-border intelligence exchanges as well as liaison with Interpol.

They should also consider more intensive police patrols in areas with heavy tourist traffic, especially on days such as July 1 when wrongdoers know police are heavily engaged elsewhere.