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Crime on airplanes 'in decline'
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08:57, November 27, 2008

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Beijing police said theft cases on planes have decreased since the start of the year, thanks to the presence of plainclothes officers on flights, and the Olympic Games.

Less than 60 cases have been reported this year involving passengers' property being stolen, down from more than 150 in each of the previous two years, Li Yihe, deputy head of the criminal investigation department stationed at the Beijing Capital International Airport, told a press conference yesterday.

Most of the cases happened on short- and medium-range flights that take one to two hours, he said.

"Usually, 9 am and 4 pm are the two peak hours, because passengers fall asleep on the plane," he said.

Passengers on flights from Taiyuan, Dongying, Yinchuan, Hohhot and Xi'an to Beijing should especially be alert, because 67 percent of the theft cases occurred on these routes, he said.

Travelers on flights from Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Shanghai to Beijing should also be careful, because theft cases on these routes account for 16 percent of the total, he said.

But some thieves choose their flights randomly, Guan Yin, a senior airport police officer, said.

A suspect surnamed Yan, who was caught on Nov 18, flew on five flights consecutively, from Chongqing to Shanghai, then to Qingdao, Beijing, Harbin and back to Beijing, spending more than 4,000 yuan on tickets, he said.

The thief stole 19,300 yuan on the last leg, but was caught because the passenger he stole from found his cash gone before passengers disembarked.

Many may doubt the high cost of stealing on a plane, but Li said it is just what thieves in the air have made use of and dare to steal money.

"Most Chinese reckon that air travelers are more educated, and the cost of theft on the plane is too high, so they feel safer and more relaxed on planes than on buses or trains," Li said.

With the fast development of air transport in China, the number of thefts in the air has been increasing fast, from 25 cases in 2003, to 151 in 2006.

To curb the trend, police officers began putting plainclothes officers onboard to catch thieves last year. The measure worked, as police have caught 18 suspects and solved 27 cases, "the best achievement ever", and caught 12 suspects this year so far, Li said.

But more importantly, public security in Beijing has largely improved due to strengthened security measures for the Olympic Games, he said.

"It is likely that the theft cases on planes will bounce in the two months before the Spring Festival, and travellers better watch out, " he said.

Not only on planes, but also at airport terminals should passengers keep their eyes open, he said.

Source: China Daily

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