Tsim Sha Tsui – the shoppers’ and robbers’ paradise in Hong Kong
In just 16 months, there have been at least 14 robberies in the area, with thieves making off with about HK$90 million worth of valuables. So why is Tsim Sha Tsui so vulnerable to robbers?
Home to sky-high bars, a glittering harbourfront, and one of the most famous shopping hubs in Hong Kong, bustling Tsim Sha Tsui is also a place that attracts those looking to make fast money illegally.
In just 16 months, there have been at least 14 robberies, including four smash-and-grab jewellery raids, in the area, with thieves making off with about HK$90 million (US$11.4 million) worth of jewellery, cash and valuables, according to a review by City Weekend.
Losses ranged from HK$60 and a stolen Octopus card to HK$32 million worth of Japanese yen. Knives were used in six of the robberies and hammers in four.
A recent high-profile HK$23.5 million raid in broad daylight on July 1 again highlighted the vulnerability of the area.
That case marked the fourth jewellery robbery in the district since March – in comparison there have been just two other such cases elsewhere in the city since 2017.
One of the biggest street robberies came in February, also during the day, when a gang ambushed five men carrying two suitcases containing more than 450 million Japanese yen (US$4.07 million) on Carnarvon Road. Police later recovered the money after intercepting the robbers’ getaway car on a flyover outside Mei Foo Sun Chuen housing estate in Lai Chi Kok.
So why is Tsim Sha Tsui so vulnerable to robbers?
Security consultant and former police superintendent Clement Lai Ka-chi warned three months ago that more shops in the district would fall victim to thieves as Tsim Sha Tsui is a hub for visitors and residents of non-Chinese descent, who criminals are increasingly recruiting for robberies.
Such residents were said to be responsible for at least half of the robberies reviewed.
“Some triads have hired non-ethnic Chinese to engage in robberies and other misdeeds,” Lai told the Post in April. “Such perpetrators can easily mix in with the crowds after committing an offence in these neighbourhoods. There will be more raids as the city has become complacent.”
That warning was quickly followed by a robbery in May in which two thieves allegedly snatched valuables worth HK$5.47 million from a jewellery shop in the busy Harbour City shopping centre in just 27 seconds. A 60-year-old man has been charged over that case.
The spate of smash-and-grab robberies has prompted major jewellery chains, including Chow Sang Sang, which fell victim to thieves in September, to strengthen shop security.
Chow Sang Sang, which was hit in a HK$24 million smash-and-grab raid at its Tsim Sha Tsui branch, reconfigured its alarm systems at “shops in several districts that need extra attention”, so they sound loudly to scare off intruders instead of silently alerting police.
Two local jewellery industry associations have issued security warnings and urged their members not to put so many valuables in display windows
“The reason is so the shop looks less tempting. We can always bring our guests to VIP rooms if necessary,” Lau Hak-bun, director of sales operations for Chow Sang Sang and representative of two associations, said in March.
In March last year, a masked robber took just seven seconds to break a display window and make off with a diamond ring worth HK$5.26 million from 3D-Gold on Nathan Road, also in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Here are some details of the 14 cases from the past 16 months, as reviewed by City Weekend.
Time: 10.45am, July 1, 2018
Venue: VIP Watch & Jewellery, 44 Haiphong Road
Losses: 34 watches and 39 watch bands, worth HK$23.5 million in total
Description of robbers: two Cantonese-speaking Chinese men, one South Asian man
Details: three robbers enter jewellery shop wielding hammer, knife and baton. They break jewellery cabinet in the store, take watches and watch bands, and then make off in getaway car.
Time: 7pm, May 23, 2018
Venue: Prince Jewellery and Watch, 3/F, Ocean Centre, 5 Canton Road
Losses: two diamond rings, one diamond bracelet, two diamond necklaces and one diamond, worth HK$5.47 million in total
Robbers: two Chinese men
Details: one robber breaks jewellery cabinet in store with hammer while the other threatens employee with knife. Pair run off, robbery takes just 28 seconds.
Time: 2pm, March 5, 2018
Venue: Austin Mansion, 15A Austin Avenue
Losses: HK$840 in cash, two mobile phones worth HK$3,500
Robbers: three Chinese men
Details: a 43-year-old woman is robbed in her flat by three men to whom she owes money. They punch her and hit her with hair dryer after realising that she can’t pay them back. They grab her wallet and phones, and run off.
Time: 7pm, February 13, 2018
Venue: car park, Middle Road
Losses: mobile phone, US$50,000 in cash
Details: victim is hit on the head and robbed.
Time: 11am, February 9, 2018
Venue: crossing point of Bristol Avenue and Carnarvon Road, outside bank
Losses: 450 million yen in cash
Robbers: eight South Asians
Details: robbers follow four Indian employees of money exchange shop in Chungking Mansions carrying two suitcases of cash to nearby bank. One robber wields knife and victims are kicked and punched outside bank. Robbers run off after grabbing the cases.
Time: 4pm, January 19, 2018
Venue: Hong Kong Cultural Centre, 10 Salisbury Road
Losses: HK$20,000 in cash
Robbers: a man and a woman
Details: a 30-year-old pregnant woman is pushed over by male robber, while the female robber takes the money the victim is holding.
Time: 3pm, January 3, 2018
Venue: one-room brothel, Champagne Court, 16 Kimberley Road
Losses: HK$500 in cash, an iPhone
Robber: Hong Kong man
Details: robber goes to brothel with a knife, ties up victim, grabs her goods and runs off.
Time: 1.30pm, December 27, 2017
Venue: one-room brothel, Fat Lei Building, 33 Carnarvon Road
Losses: purse containing HK$3,600
Robber: Hong Kong man
Details: robber enters brothel with a knife, ties up victim, grabs her purse and escapes. Victim unties herself two minutes later and calls police.
Time: 10am, September 19, 2017
Venue: Chow Sang Sang Jewellery, Silvercord, 30 Canton Road
Losses: nine diamond rings and necklaces, worth HK$24 million
Robbers: three South Asians
Details: three men on motorbike stop outside jewellery shop. Two break shop window with hammers and grab goods, then make off on bike. The whole process takes about 20 seconds.
Time: 3am, July 22, 2017
Venue: crossing point of Kimberley Road and Carnarvon Road
Losses: handbag and wallet, worth HK$6,000
Robbers: three South Asian men
Details: a 30-year-old man is robbed by three men. Victim is pushed to ground from behind while walking on street, after which thieves grab his handbag and wallet. Two men, aged 39 and 45, are arrested two weeks later.
Time: 11pm, May 29, 2017
Venue: outside iSquare, 63 Nathan Road
Losses: Cartier diamond watch worth nearly HK$1 million, HK$400,000 in cash
Robbers: four South Asian men
Details: a 61-year-old Canadian man is stabbed at least three times and robbed of backpack containing cash and watch. Robbers jump into car and head off.
Time: 3am, May 20
Venue: outside police station, 213 Nathan Road
Losses: HK$60 cash, Octopus card
Robber: South Asian man
Details: thief approaches 30-year-old man on the street outside police station and claims he took his belongings. After an argument, robber punches victim and grabs his bag.
Time: 4pm, April 14, 2017
Venue: lobby, South Seas Centre, 75 Mody Road
Losses: Rolex Daytona watch worth HK$200,000
Robbers: three Chinese men
Details: two victims make deal online to sell watch and visit Tsim Sha Tsui East to complete trade. Three men spray them with pepper powder and steal watch. Two robbers run off while the other one is caught at scene.
Time: 11am, March 11, 2017
Venue: 3D-Gold Jewellery, Hai Phong Mansion, 101 Nathan Road
Losses: diamond ring worth HK$5.26 million
Robber: South Asian man
Details: robber smashes jewellery cabinet with hammer, grabs diamond ring and runs off.