HK muggings jump nearly fourfold in first quarter as police sources say riot squad duties pulling officers off foot patrols

03-Jun-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Street robberies in Hong Kong increased almost fourfold in the first three months of this year, which police sources say is a reflection of ongoing manpower issues first encountered during last year’s anti-government protests.

While the 33 cases recorded are low for a major metropolis, they represent a major jump from the seven robberies handled in the same period a year ago.

Almost two-thirds took place between the hours of 6pm and 6am, according to police.

“The increase can be attributed to fewer police officers on the street, both in uniform as a deterrent and in plain clothes to catch them in the act,” one source said, pointing to the end of foot patrols that came as manpower was stretched thin amid months of social unrest.

The insider said he believed the robbery trend would likely continue given the recent reassembling of the 6,000-man riot squad due to concerns over potential unrest tied to the pending national security law, and the June 9 anniversary of the beginning of last year’s protests.

Hong Kong police halted foot patrols and reduced anti-crime operations in August, citing a staff crunch and the risk of lone officers being attacked amid the city’s worst civil unrest in five decades.

About 6,000 officers were shifted to the riot squad to handle the protests, which were sparked by opposition to the now-withdrawn extradition bill but quickly morphed into increasingly violent clashes between radical demonstrators and police.

The unit was partly disbanded in March as the protests largely quieted down amid the coronavirus pandemic. About 4,000 officers returned to their original posts at the time, only for the squad to be reassembled on May 24.

On the same day the squad reformed, a 55-year-old woman was attacked by two men and had a gold necklace stolen on Lai Chi Kok Road in Cheung Sha Wan. Police said the victim suffered head injuries during the hold-up and died in hospital on May 29.

On Saturday, police arrested two men in connection with the case, which was classified as murder and robbery.

Another source said police hoped to maintain foot patrols in some districts, depending on manpower. But for now, officers were mainly patrolling in police vans, he said.

On Facebook, the force urged members of the public not to wear luxury jewellery or carry large amounts of cash if they wanted to avoid becoming a victim.

“Try not to walk home alone at night” and take “well-lit streets instead of back alleys or trails” were among other pieces of safety advice offered by police.

“Don’t stare at your mobile phone when you walk, as you should pay attention to the surroundings at all times,” police added.

“If you spot anyone acting suspiciously, call the police for help once you ensure your safety.”


Category: Hong Kong

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