TECHNOLOGY helped the good guys when “salisi” gangs hit Cebu recently.
According to Sun.Star Cebu reporter Daryl T. Jabil, “salisi” is Filipino for “going in different directions”. That’s how the gang operates, one member distracting the prey while the others steal his or her valuables or act as lookout.
When one becomes the object of such dedicated hunting, the end is foretold. Then Netizens rewrote the ending.
Last May 30, a businessman lost his bag containing P30,000 cash and other valuables in a fast food branch in Mabolo. His family got a copy of a security camera video of the incident and uploaded this on the social media site Facebook.
Last June 12, jeepney passenger Dirk was too scared to warn a fellow passenger when a “laglag barya” gang put her and her bag within their pincers. Yet Dirk had the presence of mind to use his smartphone to record how three men first distracted the woman with a coin dropped in a public utility jeepney plying the Talamban route.
The videos of the May 30 and June 12 incidents became viral. These did not only alert the public but helped the police identify gang members, who held records of previous arrests.
Jabil’s reports emphasize these lessons. Salisi gang members post bail and return to their old tricks. Public vigilance is needed.
Jeepney thieves also distract a victim by putting gum on the hair or throwing an insect at his or her feet.
The fight against street crime begins with victims reporting to the police and later filing charges. It’s an act that demands will power I was not capable of.
I’ve been a victim of street thieves. I was too shocked to do anything at first. Then I blamed myself for behavior that made me vulnerable to crime: wearing jewelry while commuting, bringing a bag that was easy to open, glancing at a jeepney passenger who dropped a sack with a clatter. I resolved to put those incidents behind me and move on.
Later, after talking to other victims, I realized how keeping silent perpetuates crime. It’s even more important to report crime when the modus happens away from the public eye.
For instance, con artists struck family and friends at home, managing to take away substantial savings and valuables. The modus shows common themes: a solicitation on one’s sympathy (i.e., an old woman seeking directions, a priest raising funds to go to Rome); the gang leader’s gift for talk, often described as a power to hypnotize victims; and after the criminals strike, the dawning realization of being duped, shame, fear of being judged and rejected by loved ones, and deep sense of violation that can immobilize a victim for weeks.
In much the same way that the police and the media keep a profile of criminals and their modus, criminals also profile potential victims. In their list, nice guys must top the list. A couple was too polite to quiz a fake priest. The husband assumed his wife knew the priest she invited in their home; the wife thought her husband was distantly related to the priest. The con artist took away the couple’s savings and shook up their belief in each other.
Criminals write the end of the story unless we let them.
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*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s June 21, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”