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.