Thieving on Trains

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#1 Dec 8th, 2007, 16:42
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#1
Just alerting train travellers to be particularly guarded re possessions on some trains. A friend of mine recently travelling from New Delhi to Amritsar had to leave the train at ND before it even started because her handbag behind her luggage pack was on the seat in the corner and was whipped away unbeknowns to her by someone in the seat behind who rapidly disappeared. There seems to be an organized gang in this thieving racket - she immediately filed an FIR, and at the same time there were four others, Indians, who had items stolen.
When she finally a few days later, after getting passport emergency document, stopping ATM cards etc., went to Amritsar and then returned via same Shatabdi, an Indian man on the seat behind them had his briefcase whisked away.
Another train which has had recent reports of thieving is one Delhi to Agra.
The thieves are professional and very clever. Her handbag went while she was putting up on the rack a piece of luggage and her eyes were averted for a very short time.
Every cloud has a silver lining!
#2 Dec 8th, 2007, 17:13
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#2
It has long been advised to be particularly watchful during the chaos of settling into your train and carriage, particularly along the major tourist stretches (including domestic tourism, that is to say it's not just where foreigners tend to go). It's easy to have someone distract you at this point and find your stuff gone. It's also easy for petty thieves to hop on and off board at that time. "Distraction" ruses may include one person "accidentally" spilling something over you and so on, the other running off with your stuff. Keep your mind on your gear at all times before doing anything else.

Once you're settled in with your fellow passengers and on the move, you'll be a much harder target. On the major stretches again it is advised to keep some more vigilance up.

Also, don't keep your daypack etc. near the open windows with bars (featured in the lower classes at least), where it's easy to reach also during inbetween stops. It's probably best to keep it not paranoidly but nonetheless nonchalantly on your body anyway.

Putting down your purse or daypack to stash away your gear and find it gone is a classic the world over btw. So don't. That doesn't mean I'm not sorry for your friend; no matter what precautions, this can happen to all of us, anywhere.

A tip whilst traveling with others, make it a rule of thumb to when you walk away to do something (but leaving your gear with them, e.g. on a platform or so, or going to the loo but leaving your daypack with them), ask the others to mind your gear. This may seem tedious after a while, but it beats walking off "assuming" the others will be paying attention, when they really may not be. If you make it a habit, it becomes second nature and goes almost unnoticed.
Last edited by machadinha; Dec 9th, 2007 at 16:41..
#3 Dec 8th, 2007, 19:42
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Good tips mac!

I read a study conducted here in the U.S. (California I think) where they looked at people's responses to being asked to watch a stranger's laptop computer while the owner stepped out for a few minutes. I don't recall all the ins-and-outs but the general result was that there were far fewer thefts (or theft attempts) even when the "stranger" (the experimenter) made eye-contact and an acknowledging nod to the person at a nearby table or seat in a waiting room.

And for a "mind keeping an eye on this for a mo'" type comment there were almost no thefts. Seems we humans are such social creatures that we even take care of the belongings of others (rather than stealing them) for simple acknowledgment.

In sum:

For a wink and a smile I'll protect your stuff with my life!
Ignore me and it's mine.
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#4 Dec 8th, 2007, 19:58
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#4
Reminds me of the guy in UK's The Fast Show.

He was a compulsive thief, and people would always ask him to look after their stuff. He tied hard to convince them they were making a big mistake, but...

Well, it was funny at the time
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#5 Dec 8th, 2007, 20:26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post And for a "mind keeping an eye on this for a mo'" type comment there were almost no thefts. Seems we humans are such social creatures that we even take care of the belongings of others (rather than stealing them) for simple acknowledgment.
Yes; I was actually talking about traveling with people you know though, i.e., with friends in pairs or in groups. Again: Make sure they have acknowledged your absence & know that your stuff is still with them, and they're supposed to watch it. Can prevent some premature demise of said friendships too

Next best thing and when traveling alone, I will indeed often and if possible look for someone remotely reliable-looking in my immediate surroundings and ask them to mind my gear -- then hope for the best. Has worked so far (knock on wood -- That study seems reassuring btw, that's very interesting). Traveling alone with my not-much-of-a-watchdog I'd always be happy she was still there on my return; she was quite good at it though, but you just never know.

In India, traveling families are often good for this, you may even try and move close to them, by asking to switch berths with someone or so, or at least make sure they have acknowledged your presence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick-H View Post Well, it was funny at the time
Yes, it was
Last edited by machadinha; Dec 9th, 2007 at 16:45..
#6 Dec 9th, 2007, 09:35
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Thanks Machadinha for adding those great tips. I tried looking somewhere to post this but found it difficult - put in the word 'thieving' if I remember - looked on the train thread but just didn't go to all places. I thought after her stories, a timely reminder wouldn't hurt. She said her bag was 'hidden' behind a larger one and a coat but obviously what was happening was maybe a small child in the 'gang' plus an Indian woman sitting behind, travelling the train and who could have been part of the 'operation' had seen where the bag was placed and it was taken through the back of the seat just as she had her eyes averted loading a larger pack above. Apparently, people very well dressed will travel the train looking like normal passengers but they are part of these professional gangs.
It is more difficult when you are on your own - but I always ask family people nearby to watch my stuff if it is necessary to leave it at anytime.
#7 Dec 9th, 2007, 10:25
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#7
That would be the family of 'biscuit bandits'?

#8 Dec 9th, 2007, 22:20
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Bit confused here, Nick - is that a joke or a known gang???
#9 Dec 9th, 2007, 22:38
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It's a joke in this context --- but it happens: the 'family' that shares its food and drink, laced with drugs. The victim (hopefully) wakes up in hospital, without their valuables.
#10 Dec 9th, 2007, 22:38
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#10
=crossposted=

Google for Biscuit Bandits Indian trains, just one link for a flavour

http://www.hindu.com/2006/03/04/stor...0422230300.htm
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#11 Dec 9th, 2007, 22:42
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Ooooh, the "biscuit bandits" again! Question -- is there a way to tell whether it's ok to accept food or not? I mean, couldn't you figure it out because they're all eating it, too? (old movie lore - make the bandit have a sip of the wine he just poured you!)

Knowing how rude it is to turn down food, and how awesome it is that people on Indian trains actually acknowledge each others' presence, I'd hate to have to turn everyone down, as a rule... Though obvs I will if that's what's necessary.
#12 Dec 9th, 2007, 22:42
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On biscuit bandits, see also http://www.indiamike.com/india/350577-post51/

<cross-posting> I found it very hard too, Opoponax; that advice to never accept anything from a stranger may sound practical, but it's really undoable in India, with kind strangers offering to share their tea and sweets and whatnot, and possibly being offended if you refuse. Saying you've just had tea or so will usually serve as a passable excuse, this is also an acceptable way of saying "no thank you."

But I don't think there are any hard and fast rules on it. Nothing untowards ever happened to me; but I suppose it might have.

And no, of course there's no way to tell the difference, and their cookies or pepsi or whatever may be OK, just not that one they offer you. I guess more of that gut feeling and street-wiseness comes into play here, and beyond that, a bit of luck. Stories about it are pretty horrible though; besides having your stuff gone, it seems that in some cases you'd be quite lucky to make it through alive at all. Some people pass out for days; I guess dosages aren't taken into careful consideration by the perpetrators.

But as always: I wouldn't let all those concerns get in the way of your holiday. Or if they do, don't go. Getting drugged by a stranger can happen at home for that matter. Do all those GHB horror stories stop you from going to the discotheque? Seriously, most of those worries are so easy to have before going, they'll drop off your shoulders the moment you step off the plane (or onto it before leaving, for that matter). That is not to say one has to step in there with blind eyes.
#13 Dec 9th, 2007, 22:45
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#13
Its a con. For conmen to make a living they have to be good and utterly convincing.

So no, there probably isn't a way. I don't think etiquette allows swapping of plates just before the first bite!
#14 Dec 9th, 2007, 22:49
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#14

It is okay to refuse

Quote:
Originally Posted by machadinha View Post How dangerous are indian trains?

<cross-posting> I found it very hard too, Opoponax; that advice to never accept anything from a stranger may sound practical, but it's really undoable in India, with kind strangers offering to share their tea and sweets and whatnot, and possibly being offended if you refuse. Saying you've just had tea or so will usually serve as a passable excuse, this is also an acceptable way of saying "no thank you."

But I don't think there are any hard and fast rules on it.
I never accept anything from anyone who befriended me on any of those long trips, its okay to refuse politely citing diabetes or allergy or just that you do not like cookies! Do not take a risk because trains and the platforms are major hot spots for theives, and the drugged biscuits can sometimes be fatal. Purchasing meal and packed cookies from vendors and the pantry is almost always safe.
#15 Dec 9th, 2007, 23:04
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#15
Yeah, I'm not too worried about it really.

Firstly, I got very good at politely turning down offers of food back in high school, when most of my friends' parents were immigrants who seemed to think my family was starving me.

Secondly, I'm also not really one of those travelers who is fixated on the idea that everyone I talk to is probably trying to cheat/rob/kill me, and thus am not losing any sleep over the concept of biscuit bandits. Just thought there might be some obvious trick to it, like "don't accept food on overnight trains through Bihar" or "don't accept anything from skeevy guys".

Oh, and the thread linked above put it very well, thanks. Though I had to dig through all sorts of boring stuff about derailment stats and the profitability of Indian Railways to get to it...
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