Sadly Saigon is no different to any other big city in the world and that means that there is always someone ready to take advantage of an unsuspecting visitor or expat. In recent weeks and months, the number of street crimes being reported, seems to have increased alarmingly. In some cases the attacks have been violent and in one case resulted in the death of a victim. The type of attack seems to be more varied as well. There are many attacks being reported by the Vietnamese community and here are some of the things of which people need to be aware. In most cases The best course of action is to extricate oneself from the scene as quickly as possible, whilst shouting Coup Coup (pronounced something like coop). This means thief and most Vietnamese hate thieves and will intervene, as has been shown time and time again.

Bag Snatching

This is the most common and the most dangerous. Normally two guys on a motorbike simply take the opportunity to grab a bag if they see it over your shoulder. Sometimes working in a team (see video below) with others the level of violence can be alarming. It is not unreasonable to think that if you drag someone from a motorbike or a pedestrian along the street they will get hurt.

Possible Course of Action
Stow the bag. If they cannot see it they cannot snatch it. NEVER put the bag over your shoulder and your head. This is so dangerous as you cannot let it go and will get dragged. Even Backpacks are being targeted now as the thieves know there is a good chance of getting a computer. If you haven’t got space to stow it, strap it firmly to your handlebars where is is difficult to grab and within your vision. This is a scary crime, but in the video clip the man was steered off the road by a group of motorbikes. It’s a difficult one but if your fancy your driving skills, ram them and run. If he had grabbed the girls hair instead of trying to grab his bag, she would have fallen off. For sure, preventing this happening is better than any other course of action.

The Fake Accident Scam.

An attack of this type was reported near the Lotte Market in District 7 recently. An elderly couple riding on a Honda Dream and working with others, rammed an unsuspecting motorbike rider from behind and made a big deal of falling off. When the guy in front got off to assist them, he was immediately surrounded by others, screaming at him for causing the accident. They then demanded that he paid money to the couple for ‘knocking them off their bike” Fearing for his safety he complied, then reported the incident later.

The Fake Accident Scam
The Fake Accident Scam

Possible course of action
If you are rammed from behind, just drive off and ignore what is happening behind you. It sounds harsh as it may not be a scam, but better safe than sorry. The bottom line is that we all know that if you are an expat, it will be “your fault”. Once you get off your bike you are vulnerable.

Lost Children Scam

This would only tend to affect Vietnamese people. Two children were seen wandering along the road crying. A woman stopped to ask what was wrong and they said they were lost and couldn’t get home. The lady asked for their address, which they gave her and she put them on her bike to take them home. As soon as she turned off the road she was attacked by a gang who accused her of trying to abduct the children. They beat her and robbed her.

Possible Course of Action
Do not stop, ever.

Pretending To Ask For Directions

On some of the very quiet streets late at night you may be approached by someone pretending to ask for directions. For a Vietnamese to approach a foreigner for directions doesn’t really make sense. They are simply weighing you up to see if you are a target. In some cases a knife or even a gun has been used.

Possible Course of Action
if you can, run. Again shout “coup coup” as loudly as you can and make as much fuss and noise as possible. Obviously, if possible, stay away from dark lonely streets late at night. If you are in a position where you cannot avoid them, give them your money. It is not worth getting injured or worse.

Knocking you off your Motorbike

Sadly I have heard of this a couple of times recently as well and it is a very difficult one to deal with. I have heard of two cases where someone was simply kicked or rammed off their bike as they approached traffic lights. The robbers simply then stole bags as they lay on the ground.

Possible Course of Action
There is not really much you can do against this particularly offensive crime. It comes down to again, not carrying anything that they can see.

I know that some of my advice will seem completely obvious to many. However the fact remains that people are still putting themselves in danger, people are getting attacked in increasing numbers and the police seem reluctant to help. A Facebook page has been set up to gather information about attacks and hopefully if enough of a fuss is made, the police will feel obliged to act.

We do need to keep all this in perspective. I still find Saigon to be a safe place to live. I would certainly feel more threatened to be on the streets of London, Barcelona or Paris late at night. But these attacks are increasing and if we all stay vigilant, maybe the thieves will no longer see any merit in carrying out these horrible acts.

Take care friends, we don’t want another pointless death or any more injuries.

  • Jarka

    I agree with everything, but, I lived in London and I felt defo more safe there at any time in day, then here 😉 anyway – very good article 😉