There’s been a rash of criminality along congested roads in Metro Manila. Recently, there have been reports of hold-ups and snatching along Circumferential Road 5 near its junction with Kalayaan Avenue. The suspects are said to be youngsters, teenage boys or even street-smart children, who roam the area and keeping an eye on opportunities for snatching among the hundreds of vehicles crawling along C5 during the peak periods. They look for unlocked doors of cars or taxis and in many cases team-up to confuse the driver and/or the passenger(s). In some instances where they can’t find unlocked doors they supposedly create opportunities by banging the body of the vehicle and goading the driver to step out of the vehicle.
Vehicles at a standstill along C5 approaching the intersection with Kalayaan Ave – the center island is visible in the photo.
A few years ago, there was a feature on so-called “batang hamog” (roughly translated as children of the dew) opening doors of vehicles caught in traffic jams along EDSA. They snatch items like bags, cellphones or other items that they see through the vehicle’s windows as they loiter along the carriageway. CCTV footage from the MMDA show them to be quite quick in making their getaways. In some footage they are shown as climbing up the wall of the EDSA MRT, which is in the middle of EDSA, crossing the tracks and then climbing down on the other side, oblivious to the dangers of an oncoming train and the crash it might cause that could injure (even kill) many passengers.
A few weeks ago, a colleague and I saw some youths suspiciously scanning jeepneys caught in traffic near the Manila City Hall. My friend remarked that they might be searching for unwary passengers whom they can rob of their bags or jewelry. This modus operandi or mode of operation seems to be a favorite among snatchers in Metro Manila. I myself was almost a victim one time I was heading home on board a jeepney along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong when a guy tried to make for my watch as the jeepney started to move. Fortunately, he failed as I reacted quickly and I saw a smirk on his face as our jeepney sped away.
Now, this kind of criminality is not something that our authorities cannot address. Surely, the Makati and Taguig police together with the MMDA can make a regular sweep of the length of C5 where these suspects are supposed to loiter given that the latter’s activities are quite predictable in time and modus operandi. It’s both frustrating and disappointing when officials make excuses on TV and radio interviews why they cannot catch or deter these criminals from harassing motorists and pedestrians. Hindi naman siguro talaga pwede magamit ang patrol car kapag ma-traffic at pinaka-epektibo ay magkaroon ng foot patrol sa lugar. They can have police and enforcers roam the same areas at the same times when there’s traffic congestion and therefore, a high likelihood that the suspects will be there.Those people aren’t supposed to be roaming the carriageway or loitering along the center island of C5 in the first place since to do that they would be jaywalking along a very busy road and risk being hit by a motor vehicle.
I believe police visibility is only effective if they are actually visible and when required, give chase of the suspects. The problem seems to be that the police and enforcers are usually just at the C5-Kalayaan intersection, focused on number-coding violators, and those who are supposed to be patrolling don’t want to leave the comfort of their vehicles. Surely again, we expect our law enforcers to be fit and ready to run after suspected criminals. After all, that’s what they are supposed to be doing in the first place. It would be nice to see them patrolling the area on foot and accosting people who are not supposed to be in the area.