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Bali Police Arrest Gang Of Phone Thieves Targeting Tourists In Central Kuta

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Kuta Police have arrested five men who are thought to be Kuta’s most prolific phone thieves. The five men were paraded at the Ground Zero Monument, the Bali Bombing Memorial, on Monday 8th August. The five men were presented to the media and local observers, dressed in orange prison overalls and with their hands and feet in chains. 

The press conference was led by Denpasar Police Chief, Kombes Pol Bambang Yugo Pamungkas who confirmed that the men were all ‘old players’ in the tourism scam trade. The men have been targeting tourists and their valuable cellphones and cameras for years. Though they increased the intensity of the efforts since borders reopened in February and during this holiday peak season. 

The five men have been named as I Gede Eka Jaya Putra, 33, I Ketut Ririg, 30, I Wayan Jangkep, 25, I Komang Budiasih, 25, and I Wayan Gondol, 26. It is believed all five are originally from Karangasem Regency in East Bali. Police Chief Pamungkas confirmed that the gang was responsible for three known reported cases of phone theft. It is thought that the gang has robbed dozens more people, and attempted to rob even more but these incidences have gone unreported. 

During the press conference, Police Chief Pamungkas said that two of the men had previously been arrested and charged with similar robbery charges. He said that two of the men had been arrested in connection with 12 similar cases reported in Legian and Seminyak.

The first reported incident in connection with the gang was  William Archie Rodgers, 25, from Australia, who had his iPhone 11 stolen, worth IDR 7,000,000. Fatih Berberoglu, 29 from Germany was the second victim who also lost an iPhone 12 Pro worth Rp. 15,000,000. Thirdly was Lalith Kumar Daga Chagan Lal, 35, an Indian tourist. Lal has her phone snatched right out of her hand as she stood just outside Bali Galleria Mall using GoogleMaps for directions. 

Police Chief Pamungkas explained ‘These three victims were successfully tricked by the suspects [by posing as] a motorcycle taxi driver. They pretended to offer motorcycle taxi services. At the same time, they took the victim’s cellphone from their pants pocket without the victim realizing it’.

*Warning: This video contains explicit language.

He confirmed to the media that police patrols in the Kuta area will be stepped up after a video of a tourist caught in an attempted phone robbery went viral at the weekend. The police are increasing patrols in areas where criminals like the five men who have been arrested usually operate.

He said ‘I emphasize, we will provide measurable decisive action to perpetrators of crimes in the Denpasar Police jurisdiction, especially in Kuta and South Kuta, which are tourism centers’. He urged anyone who thinks they have seen a crime unfolding, or have been the victim of a crime to please come forward. 

These patrols are a helpful deterrent alongside increased surveillance from the community security teams known in Bali as pecalang. Kuta Traditional Village leader Wayan Wasista also told the press on Monday that he hoped that the Traditional Village leadership could work in partnership with the police to make Kuta’s streets safe for all. He described how these crimes ‘hit hard’ on the traditional village leadership and that they are committed to stamping out criminal activity in their communities.

Wasista spoke briefly at the press conference and thanked the Denpasar Police for their arrests. He went on to say ‘We ask that we always synergize to jointly secure the Kuta area which is a tourism destination. We hope that in the future today and beyond, let’s collaborate and together keep Kuta safe for tourists’. 

Police and pecalang have increased patrols and surveillance along Kuta Beach Road and Jalan Poppies. Tourists are reminded that Bali is a safe place to visit and that the authorities are working hard to keep crime off the streets.

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Wednesday 10th of August 2022

Obviously the native police and others are useless in stopping crimes against tourists. Wouldn't it be better to allow tourists to arm themselves with non lethal self defense weapons like pepper spray, etc? Just a suggestion to make it legal before the tourists start smuggling more lethal weapons into Bali and start killing their assailants which would create a bigger problem.