Ballad of the Bag-snatching Motorbike Cowboy It’s Round-up time again…


Bali-based French chiropractor witnessed a motor-bike rider bag-snatch up close and personal recently and tried to do something about it. Alas, to no avail. Within minutes, following the incident he reported the circumstances on Facebook as follows:

“Today at 3.00 pm in broad daylight I witnessed a bag-snatching incident on the corner of Jalan Kesari and Jalan Tamblingan. A big guy on a black Vario motorbike snatched a bag from Russian tourists and took off at high speed on Jl. Tamblingan, heading North. I tried to chase him screaming “Jambret!”, but no luck. Nobody tried to help either, which is pretty sad. Safety is a community effort!!! I was unable to get his plate number as he took off really fast…

The tourists were quite shaken up… understandably so! To the authorities (banjar, police, etc.): reading from similar reports in Facebook, Jl. Kesari seems to be a well-known place for this kind of incident, so perhaps having regular patrols could be a deterrent?”.

Are any of us surprised by this? Hardly. Is Bali now becoming a tourist hot spot in Asia when it comes to theft and violence? No, it is not. At least not compared to India, the Philippines and Thailand. But that’s nothing for any of us to be complacent about. Compared to Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, crimes against property and person are not uncommon here and should be a concern to foreign residents, tourists and the authorities alike.

But Pattaya, Bali is not. Not yet anyway. Thailand’s raunchy beach resort, however much it tries to re-brand itself, can’t shake its rap as the sex, crime and suicide capital of Asia. There’s no question, if you go looking for trouble in Pattaya you’ll probably find it. Liquored up, out on the town late looking for sex, drugs or excitement can end badly. As it can pretty much anywhere. But anyone, resident or tourist, exercising a reasonable level of common sense is unlikely to be targeted, even in Pattaya.

As I say, let us not be complacent. Levels of violent crime in Bali involving foreign residents and tourists can and do occur, but are mercifully few. Petty crime on the other hand is alive and well. You are much more likely to have your bag snatched by a biker in Bali than you are in Pattaya. You only have to Google bag-snatching and Bali to see there appears to have been an uptick. It may seem so, but actually I doubt it. In relative terms it was ever so – ever since the jet planes first flew in.

In the 23 years my wife and I have had a house in Sanur we have, in chronological order, experienced: theft from our parked car (Jl. Tamblingan, Sanur); theft from our car on by-pass after leaving airport following “nail-in-the-tire” job; and my shoulder satchel snatched by motor bike rider while walking on Jl. Mertasari, Sanur. To date we have been spared a night-time house break in. There was a spate of these in our area in the decade leading up to 2000. That said, we have had two fairly heavy instances of internal theft involving staff (probably the most distressing of these incidents).

Given the length of time we have been here, have we been lucky or unlucky, or is it par for the course? I couldn’t say.

From another perspective, anyone visiting New York City in the 1970s and 1980s knew that as a pedestrian they stood a good chance of getting mugged, as indeed my wife was mid-morning on 5th Avenue. Through the 1980s and 90s I travelled to London frequently and it is interesting to note that, despite the average Londoner appearing on CCTV about 30 times per day, everyone I knew had had their homes broken into, often more than once. Nine times out of ten the villain got away with it according to Greater London police statistics. On my last visit in 2010 we had our money and passports lifted from the safe in our hotel room (an inside job if ever there was one). The police came and took the details. They were quite open about admitting that no actual investigation would be made. I recently returned from an extended trip to France where I borrowed a push bike. The owner gave me three bicycle locks and, amused by my incredulity, explained: one to secure the bike frame to something immoveable, and two to secure each wheel to the bike itself. Very into bicycling, the French…

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give Bali a 5, putting it squarely in mid-range. For one of the world’s premier tourist desinations, attracting some 4 million international visitors, with a sizeable foreign resident population and God knows how many local tourists, that’s not so bad. There is violence. The possibility of terrorist acts is present, as indeed it is in many countries, but the murder rate is low and, so far as foreigners are concerned, really only happens involving matters of business (read property) or affairs of the heart. We had a classic example of the latter in Sanur not so long ago. And, on occasion, things can go fatally wrong in the course of a motorbike bag-snatch. Sexual violence against female travellers does occur but is rare, unlike India and Thailand, where it is a significant problem.

The problem in Bali is petty crime. Most particularly, bag-snatching by young men on motor bikes preying on foreigners, either walking the streets or riding a push bike or motor bike. Female tourists being the preferred targets. I haven’t heard tell of any recent re-occurence of the airport “nail-in-the-tire” job and the night break-ins, once so common in Sanur and elswhere, and which could end fatally, thankfully seem to be a thing of the past.

There are obvious measures to take to avoid becoming a victim of bag-snatchers. Leaving your passport and the bulk of your cash in a safe place and not carrying it on your person is number one. As a pedestrian, use a shoulder bag where possible, secured with the strap across your body and bag hanging on the side away from the road. Stay aware on the streets and if you sense you are being targeted, stop and look squarely at the suspect(s) with a firm hold on your bag. Odds on, if they’re up to no good, they’ll pass on you, as you’ve clearly clocked them and may have noted details of the vehicle and number. On two-wheels pretty much the same goes. If you must go out at night, particularly late at night, be very very cautious, particularly if you have been visiting the clubs and drinking. You may have been “spotted”. Lastly, hard as it may be, if you can’t hang on to your bag, let it go. Do not allow yourself to be dragged on the road behind a motorbike. Shout blue murder all the while.

What Patrick Monsarrat says about the banjar and police, and our participation, is right. More could be done. The police have been fully motorised for over a decade now and have the means to take effective action against these motor bike punks and, in a town configured like Sanur, it wouldn’t be so hard to do. I’m always a bit amused when I pedal past what I’ve heard fondly descrbed as Sanur PD’s fundraiser, a jamboree staged periodically for the benefit of passing motorbikes on Sanur’s green belt right outside the Hyatt. Quite a turnout it is. Maybe some of the hardware and energy could be deployed with this too? Just a thought…


Alternative Voice


Comments or queries


Copyright © 2018 ParacelsusAsia

You can read all past articles of Alternative Voice at