What can be more excited than to get a salary and go shopping, especially when the capital offers shops to satisfy anyone's taste? Trade centers become more and more popular among the people, as you can buy anything, can eat and drink or even entertain without even leaving the territory. However, there is a dark side - trade centers are the playground for pickpockets.

Recently, a Forum's correspondent and author of this article had a sad experience she wants to share exemplarily.

Walking in one the commercial centers of Obolon district, I noticed sellers' fix on my purse. Having check if everything on its place I hurried to leave the shop and passed to another one continuing my shopping. In one of the shoes shops, while trying on a pair I left my purse on a seat without a second thought. Probably at that moment the crime occurred.

Having realized my wallet and phone were missing I addressed the sellers of the shop, who were my first suspects.

"Oh, they might have already left," one of the sellers said. It turned out that 15 minutes before my arrival two girls also discovered their purse missing and asked the shop guard to detain a suspicious woman, who was following them. The woman opened her bag as asked and the girls saw their purse. Moreover, there were another three purses, but the woman claimed them hers, gave back the stolen one and left.

Unfortunately, the suspect had already left before I arrived. The guard explained that he did not have authorities to detain people. Besides, the girls were happy to have their purse back and did want to start a legal procedure.

"It was a miracle that we discovered the loss in time. One woman was distracting our attention, while another one escaped with the stolen thing. She was wearing sunglasses and a cap, which is rather strange for closed premises," the girls told me their story.

The security guard was confused. He also said that thievery happens quite often here. "I know they work in pairs, so I followed that one who left in a hurry."

I was recommended to call police and to check WC rooms on the third floor - usual place pickpockets leave stolen empty purses and bags. Having visited the WC rooms and some other shops I wondered why the shop guard let the thieves go so easily.

Police arrived fast, questioned the guard and took me to the department to file a report.

I had to wait for my turn for a while, as there were many other victims waiting for justice. My situation did not surprise anyone. "Again this trade center" - this phrase I heard many times from various officers. In order to get to the detective before midnight I had to use my journalist certificate. It worked.

"Do you know why there are so many cases like this?" the investigator asked me. "Because journalists like to show footages about details of robbery, thievery, kidnapping...And then we catch minors, who know the most sophisticated methods of crimes. When we ask them how they knew what to do, they say 'We saw it on TV'." I kept silence, recalling that police officers are the first to talk to the press about this or that case (see the article " Criminal investigation department: Leaving for vacation, keep the information to yourself", for example).

The report was made, all stolen valuables were registered. "Do they have video surveillance in the shop," he asked. "Yes, but they say they won't give it unless a criminal case has been instituted," I answer.

"Damn, - the detective cursed. - You know why they this? Because they know that even if we watch these tapes, we won't see anything useful. It's not an American movie. Even if you see the very fact of stealing, you cannot enlarge the face to make an identikit, as records of poor quality."

I also asked why the shop guard did not arrest or detain the suspects and received a confirmation that security guards do not have a right to detain or to search bags of visitors. "However, he can detain suspects and call the police. It is a good question why he did not do that," the detective added.

Then I immediately recalled the exchanging of glances between the sellers. Maybe, workers of trade centers have some benefits from such situations? It turned out that internet is full of stories from victims. Trade center clients share their sad experiences and urge others to be more attentive. Some of them truly believe that thieves have certain agreements with sellers and security guards.

Now, the question is why the administration of the trade center does not do anything if such cases happen every day(!).

What to do if you appeared in similar situation, as the author of this article? Head of the public liaison department of the Kyiv police Volodymyr Polishchuk was kind to answer this question.

"First of all you have to tell the administration office of a trade center about the crime. If there is a suspect, the security guards can detain it until police arrival. Police officers will search the things of the suspect in presence of two witnesses. If the loss is found, the police office will make a report and register a case. When the case is registered you will be given a number, and within ten days, officers will conduct pre-investigation check. Even if you do not have a suspect, you do exactly the same, and police officers follow the same procedure."

According to Polishchuk, in case of a money theft, a criminal case will be instituted only if the stolen sum is about one hundred hryvnias or more. If there is a stolen phone in the case, a police officer will address the mobile operator to find the location of the phone. As soon as your phone is located, a response unit will go at the place. The phone will be withdrawn, and the person of interest will face questioning and, maybe, court proceedings, depending on the history of violence of the suspect.

"Similar crimes exist everywhere, not only in post-soviet countries. Every time we recommend the same: if you go to crowed places, be attentive - keep your purses in an inner pocket and your bag right in front of you. Be cautious. Pickpockets are good psychologists. If they see a troubled or distracted person, they will not lose an opportunity to take and advantage," Polishchuk added.

ForUm also asked a criminal lawyer Angelica Sitsko to comment on the situation. "Of course, first thing to do is to report to the law enforcement forces about the crime. Give all and any detail you remember. If you are not sure when the crime occurred, name all the shops you visited during your shopping tour, describe people who surrounded you in  this or that shop, describe the actions of these people. Any detail will be useful."

According to the lawyer, the biggest problem is such situation is that a shop guard is not a police officer. He works for the shop to prevent stealing from this particular shop. He does not serve the clients who come to this shop. The only thing he can do is to be kind enough to help you out (some are not that kind - ed.). The guard can also be summoned as a witness, but nothing more. In fact, according to Angelica Sitsko, there is no legal solution for everyday pickpocketing in trade centers. Commercial centers are private property and police does not have to patrol their premises unless there is a report on a future crime. But you cannot report that you believe tomorrow there will be two pickpocket cases. Police will do nothing in this case, because it is not the same as armed robbery.
"Thievery can happen not only in trade centers, but in public transport, hospitals, everywhere - any crowded place is a potential target. I'll tell you more. A couple of years ago someone stole a big sum of money from me in the regional court of Kyiv. They are capable to steal even in places you'd never think of," the lawyer told me.

To cut the long story short, never relax when shopping. Do not leave your things unattended, not even for a second, or even better - do not take any bags with you at all. Be cautions and you'll never appear in a situation like mine.

Anastasia Pika


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