Now Playing in Cinemas: An Increase in Petty Crime

As crowds return to Phnom Penh’s newly re-opened cinemas, mo­vie-house owners warned this week that bag snatchers and pick­pockets are targeting unsuspecting customers.

Wallets, handbags and mobile telephones are being stolen while cus­tomers are busy queuing for tick­ets or relaxing under the cov­er of cinema darkness.

Kampul Pech Cinema Pres­ident Bun Sea said Tuesday he has increased the number of se­curity guards and plainclothes cin­ema “spies” patrolling the crowds for pickpockets.

“It is very hard to recognize who is the snatcher and who is the customer,” said Bun Sea, Those who are arrested are “educated” and then sent to pol­ice, he added.

Tong Seng, director of the Pruhm Bayon, Vimeantip and Bo­kor cinemas, said Tuesday that theft has increased at his cinemas and security has been in­creased in the shape of 40 security guards inside the cinemas.

Cinema guards have arrested four pickpockets in recent years, said Tong Seng, who blamed care­less customers for letting their guard down. “I think the snatching problem is not so serious if police wanted to eliminate it. But police seem to ig­nore it,” he said.

In January, Vin, 37, said she lost her mobile telephone while watching a movie at the pop­ular Lux Cinema. She didn’t no­tice the $150 telephone was missing until after the film was over. “I still go to the cinema, but I never bring valuable property with me. I’m afraid of losing it,” said Vin, who declined to give her family name.

Film director Hang Vannara said he feared the surge in cinema crime surge could affect movie attendance and therefore the production of Cam­bodian films.

Phnom Penh Penal Police Chief Reach Sokhon said the culprits were mostly homeless people and drug users, who lacked education and vocational training.

“It is not difficult to eliminate those snatchers if the government can form a center to put them in,” he said.

 

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