A conference on tourist safety concluded that visitors to Ho Chi Minh City have suffered increasingly crafty thieves on top of poor policing services.
On Friday, Captain Nguyen Van Loi of the municipal police department announced that thieves routinely check in to hotels frequented by foreign tourists using false identification papers.
The thieves then silently break into neighboring rooms to steal property from tourists who've gone sight-seeing, Loi told an audience at the conference, which was jointly organized by the municipal police and department of tourism.
Foreign tourists staying in 5-star hotels are apparently the most sought-after targets.
A representative from the Nikko Hotel, Nguyen Phat Viet, said that fifteen burglaries occurred in the hotel during 2012--mostly while foreign guests were out touring the city.
In 2013, that figure nearly doubled to 26 cases.
During the first seven months of this year, cat burglars hit Nikko guests nine times.
Viet added that the hotel recorded between 3 and 4 cases of tourists who'd fallen victim to taxi scams.
However, small groups of hotel guests aren't the only victims. Tourism companies told Thanh Nien that street snatching had become their biggest concern.
According to Phan Xuan Anh, general director of Viet Excursions, the city lacks a parking lot where tour buses can safely drop off their passengers.
As such, his buses usually unload their passengers somewhere around the Notre Dam Cathedral and have them walk from the church to the city center.
“The longer they have to walk, the higher the risk that they'll be robbed,” Anh said.
Poor support from authorities
Nguyen Duc Chi, a deputy head of the municipal Culture and Tourism Department’s Travel Division, reported 68 cases of burglaries at expat properties. The figure represented a slight decrease from last year, he said, adding that the actual figures must be much higher.
Usually, a lack of evidence or complicated paperwork discourages foreign robbery victims from filing official reports, explained Chi.
Viet said one of his customers, who was robbed at night, tried to file a report at a ward police station right after the incident.
However, the foreign tourist was told to come back the next morning.
When he came to the station the next morning, his appointment was delayed until the afternoon.
Since the victim had to check out of his hotel and get on a plane at noon, he didn't have a chance to report the crime, Viet said.
Captain Loi admitted that crime reporting protocols had grown overly complicated.
“We've heard of cases where the authorities refused to take a report because they believed the alleged victim hoped to defraud a travel insurance company,” said Loi.
According to a representative from the Ministry of Public Security, the office is planning to create “tourist police” units around the country. The proposal remains in the research and development stage and will be submitted to the government at a later date.
When that happens remains to be seen.