I had planned a little inspirational back-after-the-holidays post but yesterday I had my laptop stolen literally from right under me and I thought I’d talk about that instead.
If you are on any of the expat Facebook forums here you will regularly read about people who have had wallets taken from their bags in busy Metro stations and bank accounts cleared out before they have a chance to notice the missing wallet, and phones and laptops lifted in seconds. These people have worked hard for what they have and to have it casually taken is truly horrible.
So my story. I was eating lunch in Lele Street Kitchen on Vesterbrogade. I had tucked my rucksack with my laptop in under the table and was sitting eating my noodles and reading a book. I never once left my table. A small squat man in a loud checked shirt walked in and passed me to the toilet and then presumably left as he wasn’t eating in the place. I finished my lunch a few minutes later and reached down to pick up my bag. I noticed it was a few feet behind me and I thought ‘how did it get there?’ and in the next split second my stomach fell as I realised what had probably happened. Sure enough the bag was light and missing my Macbook. He had taken it to the toilet and taken what he wanted, zipped it up and put it back, looking exactly as before but in a slightly different place. All in the matter of minutes. As one guy said, these people are professionals.
Shouting and swearing started and the other diners gasped and looked shocked (at the theft not my swearing). I called the police to get a crime number and report the theft. Without CCTV there was little they could do and to be fair my excellent description of the man wasn’t really a lot to go on. The police call centre bloke was very helpful and seemed relieved that I had a CPR number to the process for him was simpler. Humac helped me lock the laptop, which was passworded anyway, to render it pretty useless in the short term for the thief and my insurance will hopefully pay out. No one is dead but the thought that he looked at me, a real life human being, and casually robbed me is what gets me. But as my mum said, these people don’t have any rspect for anyone, even themselves.
So in the spirit of learning and sharing, here are my tips on avoiding and dealing with theft.
Number One – Keep your wits about you
I was reading a book, other people are studying, dealing with kids and push chairs, looking at Twitter on smartphones, just normal day to day life which distracts us but this is when we are the most vulnerable. I always carry my phone and wallet in a little bag on my front and can see it at all times but larger items such as tablets and laptops will be in bags. Keep your eyes on your bags, on public transport have them on your lap or wrap the strap around your foot. The latter also in a restaurant or coffee shop. And never leave it unattended.
Number Two – Tiny acts of security
I joked last night that I shall carry a bear trap around in my bag from now on or at least a mouse trap! But in seriousness, although it may not always help, a little padlock on the zips of your bag will deter would-be pickpockets who are looking for a fast theft. In my instance it may of caused him to abandon my bag in the toilet as it would have taken crucial seconds to bust the zip during which time I may have noticed it missing. Of course this is only a tiny and probably pointless thing to do in many cases but it may make them miss you off their spree.
Number Three – Tech security
Set up your computer or tablet with passwords which need to be entered at all times to open it. Seems obvious but not everyone does this. Also you can set up Find my Mac on the iCloud if you are a Mac user. I don’t know if PCs have the same but I guess it must. Store everything in the Cloud so you can restore your data etc. Also in iCloud you can lock the stolen device remotely and even have the chance to leave a little message to the thief. I went to the Humac shop where they helped me with this but you can log onto the Cloud on any device. I am sure there are loads more security things you can do, so make sure you investigate them.
Number Four – Calling the police
For this kind of theft you need to call 114 (unless you are sitting on the thief in which case 112 is probably more appropriate !) and select 1 on the menu choices (which are in Danish). Within 24 hours of reporting the crime you should get a crime report letter in your Eboks, which you need for insurance purposed. I found them very helpful but I was in no doubt that it was one of hundreds of calls they get in the month, that they are well aware of the kinds of gangs operating in the city but there is little chance of getting the stolen item back.
Number Five – Insurance
Today before anything gets stolen from you please ring your insurance company or check your papers to make sure that you are covered for theft outside your home. Even if you are not a freelancer who prances about town with a laptop, many of us have an expensive phone or tablet in our bags. Tryg, who are my insurers, will cover me for theft outside the home but I have to pay a deductible (or excess), which in the wider scheme of the laptop cost is OK but check this also. My insurer asked for a copy of my receipt for the laptop and the police crime report. They did mention a serial number but didn’t ask for it in the end. So make sure you know where receipts for expensive items are and also make a note of the serial numbers (if you are the kind of person who doesn’t keep boxes, which I do).
Number Six – Stay positive but a word in the ear of thieves
Whilst there is an increasing number of thefts in the city, they are done by a minority of, albeit very prolific and professional, criminal gangs and not everyone is out to rob you. Everyone yesterday from the girl working in Lele’s, the other customers, the police, Humac, people who I don’t even know in the expat Facebook group were super kind and helpful. Taking care of ourselves, our things and those around us is the way to beat these people.
And to any thieves out there (who are no doubt regular readers of this blog :-)) Denmark is a country built on trust – of each other and those in charge – don’t wreck that, we value it and it needs to stand strong. And if I ever see that bloke again, whose appearance is burnt onto my retinas, let me just say in the words of William Shakespeare – though she be but little, she is fierce.