I haven’t said anything about street crime here in Madang. That will change now. I haven’t said much yet, because I had never been seriously bothered by it. That changed on Thursday morning:Here is the report that I sent to the police:
5 March 2009
RE: Sworn statement by Jan Messersmith regarding an incident of theft.
At about 12:30 in the afternoon, I left my office to go to the store to buy pencils. As I walked on Nuna Street toward the corner where Air Niugini is, a group of young men dressed mostly in black shirts with red trim surrounded me as I walked. I felt someone bump into me from behind. I carry my camera in a bag hanging from my belt. I quickly felt the bag, but I did not press it hard enough to notice that my camera was missing.
I entered the Welcome Stationery Store and bought some pencils. As I was paying, I noticed that my camera was missing from the bag. I rushed from the store and saw a Police Officer with my camera in his hand and holding onto a young man. He returned my camera to me and told me to report to the Jomba Police Station.
At the police station, another Officer told me to return to my office and prepare a report of the incident.
The camera is a Canon G9, Serial Number 6321313336. I purchased it in the USA in April of 2008 at a price of $450 (K1,200).
This is my sworn testimony.
There is a lot more to it.
I strongly suspect that there was a gang at work here. The guy who was caught by the cop was wearing a grey t-shirt. However, he was obviously working the crowd with the fellows wearing the black shirts with red trim. I knew that there was something up the moment I left my office. They gathered around me and walked the same direction. They seemed overly-friendly and nervous. I looked around me and smiled, giving them a thumbs-up and saying, “Spots clab hia, a?” (So, you are a sports club, eh?) They laughed half-heartedly and agreed. How stupid am I, anyway?
I should have checked more carefully that my camera was still there when I felt him bump into me. I didn’t make sure it was still in the bag. It is probably just as well. If I had noticed it was gone I might have reacted in a way that could have gotten me bashed. I can hold my own with one or two, but this was a gang.
Then there is the question of the cop witnessing the crime. When I asked him he said only that he witnessed the theft and retrieved my camera. Did they have this gang under surveillance, or is it just a bizarre coincidence?
It gets better. When I went to the Jomba Police Station to report (as instructed), the police asked me what I wanted to do with the kid. What is that about? I suspect that they were waiting to see if I just wanted to beat him up and let him go. They asked me if I wanted to file charges. I said that as far as I could see, it wasn’t necessary for me to do so, since a police officer witnessed the crime. I told the cops that I thought we lived in a nation of laws and I wanted to see the law properly applied. Otherwise, it was none of my business what they did with him.
On Friday afternoon, I walked over to the hardware store at Beckslea Plaza. In the five-minute walk I saw three huge fights involving unlucky pickpockets who were being thrashed to within an inch of their lives by angry crowds. I saw a lady that I know and asked her what she thought of it. She said that the police were unable to stop the pickpockets and people were getting more and more frustrated. She said that she was worried that we were going to have people dying in the streets.
I hoped that I would never see this. I called the Prosecutor’s Office this morning to “bring it to his attention”.