Old scams to dog the new year

Old scams to dog the new year

Local thieves and foreign conmen will keep cops busy

Thitirat: Foreign swindlers still a threat
Thitirat: Foreign swindlers still a threat

Theft and scam crimes will cause big headaches for police next year as the economic slowdown is likely to drag along and Thailand remains a popular hideout for foreign wrongdoers. Police believe they will face challenges from both local thieves and foreign scammers.

In interviews with the Bangkok Post, when key senior police officers were asked to pick likely crime patterns in 2016, they all raised the same warning about asset-related cases.

Police believe foreign criminals will continue to use Thailand as their base of operations, while robberies, mainly committed by former prisoners and drug suspects, will remain a persistent problem, especially with the economy in slow-down and people feeling the pinch.

Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commissioner Pol Lt Gen Thitirat Nonghanpitak said he believes foreign criminal suspects fleeing authorities overseas will not only use the country as their hideout, but might also commit crimes here as well.

Robbery gangs from such countries as Nigeria and Colombia are among suspects under police watch, he said. These gangs view Thais as new targets and are suspected of plotting burglaries aimed at villages or housing estates.

Even innocent foreigners are also prone to crimes committed outside their countries. One example is Chinese gangsters who fooled Chinese victims into paying them in a call-centre scam perpetrated in Thailand, Pol Lt Gen Thitirat said.

In media reports from earlier this year, police were alerted to this type of wrongdoing when call centre gangs, mostly run by Chinese with help from Thai accomplices, phoned their targets pretending to be bank officers or state officials and asked the victims for personal banking data after claiming their bank accounts had run into problems.

Pol Lt Gen Thitirat also warned exhibitors at trade fairs about thieves disguising themselves as visitors.

One case that made newspaper headlines in September concerned two Chinese nationals who allegedly colluded to steal a 10-million-baht diamond from a jewellery fair at Impact Arena off Chaeng Watthana Road.

The pair had approached an exhibitor and asked for a closer look at a diamond. But when they returned it to the exhibitor, it had been switched with a fake one.

A female suspect, identified as Jiang Sulian, 30, was later found to have swallowed the real diamond in an apparent attempt to steal it, according to police.

These patterns behind criminal plots must be carefully studied by police to prevent a recurrence; otherwise, "we will lag behind transnational criminals", Pol Lt Gen Thitirat said.

Domestically, the CIB chief warns against convicts who are released from jail after serving their terms. He said some may not know what to do and can end up recommitting crimes such as pickpocket- ing, burglaries and luring people into paying them money.

Such criminals tend to stick to their old habits and tricks, but, to ensure their quick arrest, police must have information about them readily available, Pol Lt Gen Thitirat said.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau is also aware of robbers, especially those who break into vehicles to steal assets, and the agency plans to solve the problem by cutting links between the crime and drug suspects as part of their crackdown. ''About 80% of roadside crimes in the city are likely to result from drug suspects," acting metropolitan police chief Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathawon said.

Next year, city police will launch a campaign to reduce the number of drug addicts to weaken the drug trade and eventually reduce the crime rate, he said. However, Pol Lt Gen Sanit admitted the focus on drugs alone is not enough. To effectively deal with robberies, they still need to directly tackle the robbers.

Contact Crime Track: crimetrack@bangkokpost.co.th

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